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Syria: ambitions and realities

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chernitsa Polina
This week saw several milestone events, which may play important role in the settlement of the Syrian conflict.
The Arab League has softened its position towards the Syrian government. The joint UN-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan announced his plan of the crisis settlement which was approved by official Damascus. This is a serious step towards the national dialogue, experts note. But the Syrian opposition, which has a strong backing abroad, is not going to give in.

The peace plan put forward by Kofi Annan implies cease fire by all the parties and political settlement of the conflict within the internal Syrian dialogue. Annan has also called on Damascus to allow humanitarian convoys enter the country. According to the UN estimates, more than 1 million of Syrian people need humanitarian aid.

The government of Syria said that it supported Annan’s plan. President Bashar Assad visited the city of Homs, the stronghold of the Syrian opposition which had been taken by the governmental troops. In his address to the city residents the Syrian president pledged a “return to normal life” for the city as soon as possible.

The approval of Annan’s plan by Damascus is a positive signal for the whole global community, Vladimir Isayev, an expert at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says. But in the current situation the Syrian authorities decide nothing. The opposition plans to continue its fighting for the change of the regime and this will provoke a response from the authorities, the expert says.

“It is quite natural that Syrians approved Annan’s plan, because the official government and the whole global community want peace. The question is who will meet the commitments. In the ranks of the Syrian opposition especially abroad, it is a extremist point of view which prevails. They believe that the conflict can be solved only by means of weapons and overthrowing of Assad. When it comes to using such methods any political regime whether it is good or bad has the right to repel the military intervention into its home affairs.”

The bloodshed in Syria is continuing. The governmental troops are fighting the militant groups, which also infiltrated neighboring Lebanon last week. The UN is checking the reports on recruitment of children by the so-called Syrian Liberation Army, which is an outrageous violation of the international conventions. It is obvious that for the opposition a peaceful settlement of the conflict is of minor importance. Sponsored by the monarchies of the Persian Gulf the opponents of the Syrian regime want to change the regime at any cost. This is the main factor which seriously threatens peacekeeping efforts of the UN in the region, an expert in Oriental Studies Boris Dolgov says.

“For Syria the way out of the crisis depends on the support of the military groups from external forces: Turkey, the leading NATO countries, monarchies of the Persian Gulf. As long as the opposition receives financial and military support it is difficult to speak about the conflict’s regulation. Those military groups do not want to stop their terrorist activities.”

On Friday, it was reported that Saudi Arabia had pressed Jordan again to open its border with Syria to allow weapons’ supplies to the Syrian opposition. First time Saudi Arabia tried to do it in the early March promising economic aid to Jordan. Back then and now Jordan refused. Nevertheless this week also revealed contradictions in the ranks of the opposition and in the camp of their sponsors. On March 27, a conference of the opposition leaders, sponsored by Turkey and Qatar, took place in Istanbul. The goal of the conference was to prevent a split within the opposition and to keep those members who were ready to start dialogue with Assad in new conditions in its ranks.

The summit of the Arab League countries, held last week in Iraq, was also very representative. Officially the meeting was held to sum up the consequences of the “Arab Spring” but the key topic was the current conflict in Syria. The members of the Arab League voiced their support to Kofi Annan’s mission.

Political analysts note that more and more countries choose for a well balanced view of the Syrian crisis and agree with the position of Russia that the resignation of Assad won’t improve the situation. In this context the recent Arab League’s summit can be regarded as a turning point, Boris Dolgov concludes.

“The fact that at the Arab League session most of the members supported Kofi Annan’s plan and did not condemn Assad’s government as it had been before it is definitely a momentous event. It means that the attempts of the monarchies of the Persian Gulf to facilitate foreign military intervention have failed. Now there is an opportunity for the political settlement of the conflict. But I want to stress it that it cannot happen immediately. It is a long way to go.”

On Thursday, the decisions taken by the Arab League were opposed only by one of its members – Tunisia. It was Tunisia which hosted the first summit of Syria’s “friends”, a group which includes representatives of the UN Security Council, the US, Great Britain, France and other states, besides Syria. In total the groups comprises 70 participants. The “friends” insist that Bashar Assad should step down and ignore all the efforts of official Damascus to regulate the conflict. On Sunday, Syria’s friends will gather in Istanbul. It is expected that they would demand that the Syrian government should recall its ambassadors from their countries which would mean the break-up of diplomatic relations with Syria. It is also expected that the friends may officially recognize the oppositional Syrian national council.

Mar 31, 2012