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Syria’s self-proclaimed ‘friends’

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pershkina Anastasiya, Yulia Ashcheulova
A conference of representatives of about 70 countries and international organizations was held in Istanbul on Sunday.
The conference discussed ways to settle the conflict between the government and opposition groups in Syria and was called ‘Friends of Syria’.

The participants decided to start preparing a ‘package’ of sanctions against Syria’s current regime, that of President Bashar al-Assad.

Then they want to present this ‘package’ to the UN Security Council. They practically don’t conceal it that they want to put pressure on the Security Council to adopt these sanctions.

At present, the UN Security Council is backing a plan of settling the Syrian conflict, which its envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, who is also the envoy of the League of Arab States, has suggested to President Assad – and Mr. Assad accepted it.

Mr. Annan’s plan suggests, first, that the conflicting sides in Syria lay down arms as soon as possible, second, that all who want to render humanitarian aid to Syria be allowed to do it without restriction, and, third, that the Syrian regime starts reforms in the country in order to find a compromise with the opposition.

However, the ‘Friends of Syria’ believe that President Assad agreed to Kofi Annan’s plan only to play for time and to be able to suppress the Syrian opposition further. They insist that tough sanctions should be used against the Assad regime.

Speaking at the conference, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the Arab League Nabil El-Arabi called on the participants to put pressure on the UN to make it ‘start real actions’.

Russia and China are against tough sanctions against Syria. They have refused to take part in this conference of ‘Syria’s friends’.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says that Kofi Annan’s plan of settling the Syrian conflict corresponds very much with what Russia would like to implement. But only the UN Security Council has the right to decide whether the Syrian regime follows Mr. Annan’s plan well or not. It is not within the authority of these self-proclaimed “Friends of Syria’ to adopt any official decisions concerning this matter.

‘Everyone, including these “friends of Syria’, has the right to put forward suggestions on how to settle the Syrian conflict,” Russian observer Azhdar Kurtov believes. “But no one has the right to put pressure on the UN Security Council.”

“The only body which is legitimate to introduce sanctions against any state, including Syria, is the UN Security Council – of course, if it acts within the UN’s charter and within international laws – and it usually does. No other organization and no ‘individual’ country, whatever good its intentions may be, has no right to introduce such sanctions or to put pressure on the Security Council to make it introduce them.”

The only people who represented Syria at this conference of ‘friends’ were members of the so-called Syrian National Council – the ‘supreme body’ of the Syrian opposition. Moreover, at the conference, they called on the other participants to recognize this council as ‘the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people’s interests’.

Azdar Kyrtov comments: “Such statements of the National Council may only discredit it in the eyes of the Syrian people. From the point of view of democracy, a legitimate representative of people’s interests is one who has won the majority of votes at elections. The Syrian National Council has never won any elections (although it still has such a chance, as soon as, after a reform of the constitution, elections are expected to be held soon in Syria). It is very obscure who has delegated these representatives of the Syrian National Council to this conference of ‘Syria’s friends’. The National Council is a motley bunch of people with different political views, who can hardly be called legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.”

Within the next two weeks, a ‘working group’ will gather in Paris to work out new sanctions against Syria. It will analyze the ‘packages’ of sanctions suggested by the US, the EU and the Arab League. Then, it will sum them up and suggest them to the UN Security Council and to ‘the Friends of Syria’, hoping that they will start to implement them. It is even likely that the ‘friends’ may start to implement them even if the UN Security Council does not approve it.