Syria : “Military/Humanitarian” Intervention under the “UN-Friends of Syria”’s umbrella ? (en-tr)


”Konu Irak ise Bağdatlı, Suriye ise Şamlı, Balkanlar ise Saraybosnalı gibi konuşmalı”


“Umudunuzu kaybettiğinizde hareket kabiliyetinizi de kaybedersiniz. Yolun bittiği yerde yeni bir yol açacağız. Ama birileri bir şeye göz yumuyor diye bizim de göz yummamız beklenmesin. Suriye, mübalağasız, Ortadoğu barışı açısından jeopolitik bağlamda en önemli ülke. Suriye’nin bölgesel barış için bir an önce halkın talepleri doğrultusunda yeni bir yapıya kavuşması lazım “

***

”Eğer bir çözüme kendim inanmıyorsam, başkalarını ikna edemem. Arabulucular, arabuluculuk sırasında o kadar mazeret öne sürüyorlarsa çözüm mümkün olmuyor. Bununla paralel olarak bir de bu inancın gerçekçi bir analiz tarafından desteklenmesi gerekiyor”

”Bir arabulucunun sabırlı olması gerekir. Nihai aşamaya gelmeden önce tüm tarafların müzakere masasına oturmaya hazır olduğu konusunda hemfikir olmalıyız”

”Arabuluculuğun cazip olayı başarıdır. Arabulucuların çoğu Nobel ödülü kazanmak isterler ancak başarı isteği, sizi zaman zaman yanlış yola sevk edebilir ve beyaz yalanlara yol açabilir, iki tarafı ikna edebilmek için. Bu doğru bir şey değil çünkü bu size karşı güveni sarsar”

Davutoğlu, The Marmara Oteli’nde düzenlenen ”İstanbul Arabuluculuk Konferansı”nda yaptığı konuşmada, geleneksel olarak ‘Dersaadet’ şeklinde adlandırılan İstanbul’un bir arabuluculuk konferansı için doğru yer olduğunu belirterek, mutluluk olması için barış olması, bunun için de ülkeler, insanlar ve kurumların bir arada çalışması gerektiğini, arabuluculuğun barışın gerçekleştirilmesi ve sorunların halledilmesi için en önemli unsurlardan olduğunu dile getirdi.

Soğuk savaş sonrasındaki yılların büyük zorluklar ve yeni konular getirdiğini belirten Davutoğlu, bu süreçte yaşanan büyük depremleri; 1991 yılında Sovyetler Birliği’nin yıkılmasından kaynaklanan ”jeopolitik deprem”, 2001 yılındaki 11 Eylül olaylarından kaynaklanan ”güvenlik depremi”, geçen yıl başlayıp hala devam eden ”küresel ekonomik kriz” ve Avrupa’daki ”ekonomik kriz”, bütün Ortadoğu’daki ”siyasi deprem” olarak sıraladı.

Son depremde devletlerarası yerine devletlerin iç sorunlarının gündeme geldiğini ve bunların da arabuluculuk gerektirdiğini ifade eden Davutoğlu, bütün bu depremlerin tam ortasında yer alan Türkiye’nin son 30 yıldır bütün bu konularda hep diplomatik çözümlerin etkin olarak kullanılması yönünde bir pozisyon aldığını aktardı.

Arabuluculuk dostlarının, Medeniyetler İttifakı ile birlikte kendileri için en önemli ittifaklardan biri olduğunu söyleyen Davutoğlu, bütün bu krizlere olumlu katkıda bulunabilmek için uluslararası küresel bir platform yaratmaya çalıştıklarını belirtti.

Davutoğlu, arabuluculuğun dört boyutunu psikolojik, entelektüel, ahlaki ve metodolojik boyut olarak sıralayarak, ”Herhangi bir krizin psikolojik boyutu olayın yüzde 50’sinden fazlasıdır. Karşılıklı güven olmadan, doğru psikolojik ortam yaratılmadan başarılı olunamaz. Teknik detaylar yüzde 20-30, geri kalanı da sorunun halledilmesi için siyasi iradedir” diye konuştu.

  • ”Arabulucu çözüm sonrasına yönelik bir vizyon sahibi olmalı”

  • ”Arabulucu bir çıkarın değil, değerlerin savunucusu olmalı”
  • ”İkili bir dil kullanmayacaksınız”
  • Zamanlama, kapsayıcılık, yoğunluk ve dış faktörler…
  •  ***

    Suriye Arap Plânını kabul etmeli ve
    yeni bir yapıya kavuşmalı

    Dışişleri Bakanı Ahmet Davutoğlu, Suriye’den beklentilerinin Arap Birliği planını derhal kabul etmeleri ve Suriye’nin geleceğini Suriye halkına tevdi etmeleri olduğunu kaydederek, “Suriye kimsenin şahsi mülkü değildir. Hiçbir grubun, partinin, ideolojinin de mutlak hakimiyetinde değildir” dedi.

    Dışişleri Bakanı Davutoğlu ve BM Genel Kurulu Başkanı Nasır Abdülaziz El Nasır, Arabuluculuk Konferansı çerçevesindeki görüşmelerinin ardından ortak basın toplantısı düzenlediler.

    Davutoğlu, son dönemde Türkiye’nin BM faaliyetlerinde bir artış ve yoğunlaşmanın söz konusu olduğunu belirterek, Medeniyetler İttifakı ve arabuluculuk girişimlerinin bu küresel barışa katkı faaliyetlerinin örneklerinden olduğunu söyledi.

    Arabuluculuk girişiminin BM Genel Kurulu’nda yapılacak geniş çaplı toplantıyla tabanının genişleyeceğini belirten Davutoğlu, “Hedefimiz küresel ve bölgesel barışa katkıda bulunmak. İstanbul’u bütün bu girişimlerin, barış ve arabuluculuk girişimlerinin merkezi haline getirmek istiyoruz” dedi.

    İstanbul’da BM’nin bölgesel ofislerini toplayarak barış ve arabulucluk girişimlerinin odaklandığı bir merkez kurma arzusunda olduklarını ifade eden Davutoğlu, BM Genel Sekreteri Ban Ki-Mun’un Haziran ayında Türkiye’ye geleceğini ve hem Medeniyetler İttifakı konferansını hem de Somali konferansının ikincisini yapacaklarını dile getirdi.

    Son dönemde krizlere müdahale konusunda BM’nin bazen geç kaldığını bazen de iç tartışmalarla vakit kaybettiğini müşahede ettiklerini vurgulayan Davutoğlu, BM Güvenlik Konseyi’nde Suriye tasarısının veto edilmesinin BM sistemi ile ilgili ciddi tartışmaları beraberinde getirdiğini söyledi.

    Hemen hemen aynı unsurlarla 137 oyla kabul edildiğini hatırlatan Davutoğlu, “İnsanlık vicdanını etkileyen bir konuda BM Genel Kurulu bu kadar büyük bir oy çokluğuyla tasarıyı kabul ederken BM Güvenlik Konseyi’nin bu konuda aynı tasarıyı veto etmiş olması, ortada bir çarpıklık olduğunu gösterir. Benzer durum açıkçası Filistin’in tanınması konusunda da söz konusudur” diye konuştu.

    “BM, küresel sorunlar ve insanlık vicdanını zedeleyen problemlerin nihai çözüm merkezidir” diye konuşan Davutoğlu, artık BM’nin bu rolü oynayabilmesi için ortak değerler etrafında çok daha etkin bir yapıya kavuşturulmasının şart olduğunu belirtti.

    Suriye

    Davutoğlu, Türkiye’nin Şam yönetiminden net olarak ne beklediğinin sorulması üzerine, Türkiye olarak Suriye’de sorunun kansız bir şekilde çözümü için çok çaba harcadıklarını söyledi.

    Şam yönetiminin, “önce bütün muhalefet odaklarını bastıralım, güvenliği sağlamak adına halkı sindirelim sonra seçime istediğimiz şartlarda gidelim” mantığıyla hareket ettiğini anlatan Davutoğlu, bu durumda reformların anlamının kalmadığını kaydetti.

    Arap Birliği ve BM zemininde çalışmalar yapıldığını ama sonuç alınamayınca Tunus toplantısıyla yeni bir inisiyatifin başladığını dile getiren Davutoğlu, “Aslında Tunus toplantısının Suriye halkına dönük mesajı şudur: ‘Başkaları sizin acınıza sessiz kalabilir ama biz, burada toplanan ülkeler, bu acıya sessiz kalamayız. Biz Suriye halkının mücadelesinin yanındayız, Suriye’ye dönük katliamların da karşısında olmaya devam edeceğiz” diye konuştu.

    Türkiye’nin öncelikli beklentisinin kanın durması olduğunu ifade eden Davutoğlu, “Halkına savaş ilan eden bir rejimin ayakta kalma şansı da meşruiyeti de yoktur” dedi.

    Esad rejiminin bir taraftan halkıyla savaşırken bir taraftan da “referandum yapıyorum” dediğini kaydeden Davutoğlu, “Böyle bir reform anlayışı olabilir mi-” diye sordu.

    Davutoğlu, şöyle konuştu:

    “Suriye’den beklentimiz Arap Ligi planını derhal kabul etmeleri ve bu plan çerçevesinde uluslararası toplumun büyük çoğunluğunun, 137 ülkenin, benimsediği bu plan çerçevesinde gerekli adımları atmaları ve daha sonra da Suriye’nin geleceğini Suriye halkına tevdi etmeleridir. Suriye kimsenin şahsi mülkü değildir. Hiçbir grubun, partinin, ideolojinin de mutlak hakimiyetinde değildir. Suriye, Suriye halkına aittir. Hiçbir dış güce de ait değildir. Suriye halkının sesine imkan verilmelidir. Önce bu plan kabul edilmeli, sonra da adil şartlarda Suriye halkının kendi sesini duyurabileceği rahatlıkla katılabileceği seçimlerle demokratik yollarla kendi yönetimini belirlemelidir. İstediğimiz, beklentimiz bu.”

    ***

    Davutoğlu, Suriye’nin Dostları Grubu konferansının organizasyon ve toplanmasına ilişkin her detayda Türkiye’nin aktif rol aldığını ifade ederek, grubun dışında Rusya ve Çin’le de bu işin çözümü için konuştuklarını dile getirdi.

    Bu ülkelerle görüşmeye devam edeceklerini vurgulayan Davutoğlu, “Ama birileri bir şeye göz yumuyor diye bizim de göz yummamız beklenmesin” dedi.

    Suriye’de iki tarafa bölünmüş bir iç savaş görüntüsü olmasını istemediklerini ifade eden Davutoğlu, herhangi bir parçalanma, bölünme ve savaş hali yaşanmadan bu sorunun çözülmesini dilediklerini kaydetti.

    Suriye’nin, İsrail’e, Irak’a, Lübnan’a komşu olduğunu dile getiren Davutoğlu, “Suriye, mübalağasız, Ortadoğu barışı açısından jeopolitik bağlamda en önemli ülke. Suriye’nin bölgesel barış için bir an önce halkın talepleri doğrultusunda yeni bir yapıya kavuşması lazım” dedi.

    “Tunus’taki toplantının en önemli unsurlarından birisi Suriye Ulusal Konseyi’nin meşru bir temsilci olarak kabul edilmesidir” diye konuşan Davutoğlu, bu kadar geniş kapsamlı bir toplantıdan çıkan mesajların gözönüne alınacağını umduğunu kaydetti.

    Davutoğlu, gazetecilerin Suriye’de barışçıl çözümün zor gözüktüğünü belirtmeleri üzerine, “Umudunuzu kaybettiğinizde hareket kabiliyetinizi de kaybedersiniz. Yolun bittiği yerde yeni bir yol açacağız” dedi.

    Suriye’de Esad’ın ayrı bir Nusayri devleti kurması ihtimali iddialarının sorulması üzerine de “Eğer bir bölünme planı varsa biz bunun olmaması için çalışıyoruz. Birilerinin zihninde böyle bir şey varsa bütün gayretimiz bunun olmaması yönündedir” diye konuştu.

    Suriye’den Büyükelçinin çekilip çekilmeyeceğinin sorulması üzerine de Davutoğlu, bunu değerlendireceklerini belirterek, “Biz prensip olarak Libya’da da Irak’ta da temsilciliklerimizi açık tutarak halkla temasımızın sürmesini istiyoruz. Ama eğer böyle bir karar almak gerekirse onu da alırız” dedi.

    İstanbul’da Suriye ve Arap Baharı toplantıları

    Suriye Ulusal Konseyi ile Tunus toplantısının ardından tekrar görüşeceklerini anlatan Davutoğlu, İstanbul’da düzenlenecek Suriye’nin Dostları Grubu toplantısı öncesinde özel gündemli iki toplantı daha yapacaklarını belirtti.

    Bunlardan birinin Ortadoğu’daki bölgesel değişimde Hristiyanlar ve dini topluluklar arasındaki ilişkiler konusunda olacağını belirten Davutoğlu, Hristiyan toplulukların temsilcileri ile Türkiye’de Mart ayı içinde toplantı yapılacağını anlattı.

    Ortadoğu’da bütün dinlerin ve mezheplerin bir arada yaşamasını istediklerini dile getiren Davutoğlu, bu toplantıya Suriye’deki Hristiyan azınlık liderlerinin de davet edileceğini belirterek, “Suriye’de ulusal uzlaşı ile ilgili bir toplantı, Ortadoğu’da dini barış, azınlıklar, Hristiyanlarla ilgili bir toplantı ve Suriye Dostları Grubu toplantılarının üçü de Mart ayı içinde İstanbul’da olacak” dedi.

    “Artık küresel ölçekte olsun bölgesel ölçekte olsun her oluşan masada biz varız” diyen Davutoğlu, Katar’da düzenlenecek Kudüs toplantısına Türkiye’nin davet edildiğini ve Başbakan Yardımcısı Beşir Atalay’ın bu toplantıya katılacağını dile getirdi.

    (tamamı) 

    ***

    Chairman’s Conclusions of the International Conference of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People

    1. The first meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People (“the Friends’ Group”), was held in Tunis on 24 February 2012, with the participation of more than 60 countries and representatives from the United Nations, the League of Arab States, the European Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab Maghreb Union and the Cooperation Council for the Arab Gulf States to discuss the worsening situation in Syria.

    2. The Friends’ Group reaffirmed its firm commitment to the sovereignty, independence, national unity and territorial integrity of Syria. It expressed strong condemnation of the Syrian regime’s ongoing, widespread, and systematic human rights violations, including: the indiscriminate use of force against civilians; the killing and persecution of peaceful protestors; and sexual violence and ill-treatment of thousands of detainees, including children. The Syrian regime’s brutal actions over the past eleven months have led to the death of thousands of innocent civilians, caused widespread destruction, forced tens of thousands of Syrians to flee their homes, and created widespread suffering among the Syrian people. Journalists portraying the truth about what is happening in Syria have paid with their lives. The Group viewed the regime’s use of heavy artillery and tanks to attack residential areas of cities and towns as particularly reprehensible. The atrocities committed, as the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry has said, amount in some cases to crimes against humanity.

    3. The Friends’ Group affirmed its goal of a political solution to this crisis that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people for dignity, freedom, peace, reform, democracy, prosperity and stability. The Friends’ Group recognized that this solution should address the concern of all citizens of Syria, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. It expressed its strongest possible concern about the situation in Syria and called for the following steps to be taken as a matter of urgency:

    Support for the League of Arab States

    4. The Friends’ Group commended the League of Arab States for their leadership on this issue and welcomed the League’s actions and proposals to achieve a peaceful resolution of the crisis. It underlined the need for an immediate end to all violence and for the full implementation of the decisions and resolutions of the League of Arab States on the situation in Syria, notably resolutions 7444 of 22 January 2012 and 7446 of 12 February 2012, that, inter alia, call for the Syrian government to:

    • Cease all violence and protect its population;
    • Release all persons arbitrarily detained due to the recent incidents;
    • Withdraw all Syrian military and armed forces from cities and towns, and return them to their original home barracks;
    • Guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations; and
    • Allow full and unhindered access and movement for all relevant League of Arab States’ institutions and Arab and international media in all parts of Syria to determine the truth about the situation on the ground and monitor the incidents taking place.

    The Friends’ Group noted the Arab League’s request to the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution to form a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force following a cessation of violence by the regime as outlined above and agreed to continue discussions on the appropriate conditions for the deployment of such a force.

    Political Transition

    5. The Friends’ Group called for an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism and aimed at addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s people. The Friends’ Group noted that the Syrian government’s effort to impose unilaterally a set of political steps labeled as reforms would not resolve the crisis.

    6. In this regard, the Friends’ Group set out its full support for the League of Arab States’ initiative to facilitate a political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system in which citizens enjoy equal rights regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities, beliefs or gender, including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition aimed at:

    • Formation of a national unity government;
    • Delegation by the President of Syria of his full authority to his First Deputy to cooperate fully with the national unity government in order to empower it to perform its duties in the transitional period; and
    • Transparent and free elections under Arab and international supervision.

    7. In this regard, the Friends’ Group welcomed the appointment of Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syria Crisis.

    Accountability for Regime Actions

    8. The Friends’ Group expressed disappointment that the United Nations Security Council had thus far been blocked from responding to the League of Arab States’ repeated appeals for support and for its plan to end the violence in Syria. The Friends’ Group calls on the Security Council to work with the League of Arab States and other interested parties to take effective action against the Syrian regime’ gross human rights violations, and to bring about an end to the violence against civilians. The Group underlined the need to end impunity and to hold those responsible for perpetrating crimes against the Syrian people to account.

    9. The Friends’ Group welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly on 16 February of resolution 66/253 which strongly condemned the repression in Syria and demanded that the Syrian regime implement the Plan of Action of the Arab League of 2 November, and its decisions of 22 January and 12 February without delay. In view of the significant support for this resolution, the Group called for the United Nations Security Council to fulfill its responsibilities on Syria by returning to this issue as soon as possible. The Group also welcomed the continued involvement of the Human Rights Council and called on the Syrian regime to cooperate fully with the independent Commission of Inquiry. It welcomed the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic of 22 February 2012.

    10. The Friends’ Group set out its determination to continue to take relevant political, diplomatic and economic measures to press the Syrian regime to stop all acts of violence and to prevent the regime from generating further instability in the region. In this regard, participants committed to take steps to apply and enforce restrictions and sanctions on the regime and its supporters as a clear message to the Syrian regime that it cannot attack civilians with impunity. These should include:

    • Travel bans on members of the regime;
    • Freezing their assets;
    • Ceasing the purchase of Syrian hydrocarbon products;
    • Ceasing infrastructure investment in, and financial services relating to, Syria;
    • To reduce diplomatic ties with the Syrian regime; and
    • Preventing the shipment of arms and related materials to the Syrian regime; and studying means of restricting the Syrian regime’s access to fuel and other supplies used for military purposes.

    Support for the Opposition

    11. The Friends’ Group commended the courage and determination of Syrians on the ground, who are the vanguard of the Syrian people seeking freedom and dignity. In this context, it also praised the work of the Syrian National Council (SNC) to form a broad and inclusive body and encouraged them to continue these efforts.

    12. To this end, the Friends’ Group recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change. The Group agreed to increase its engagement with and practical support for the Syrian opposition. The Friends’ Group encouraged the Syrian National Council to pursue its actions in a spirit of unity and to support the vision of an inclusive, prosperous and free Syria that protects its citizens and generates stability in the region, and where all citizens enjoy equal rights.

    13. The Friends’ Group called on the Arab League to convene a meeting around the Syrian National Council with a range of opposition groups and individuals, including those inside Syria, committed to a peaceful political transition, in order for them to agree on:

    • A representative coordination mechanism for working together before, during and after a transition period;
    • A clear statement of shared principles for a transition in Syria, according to relevant covenants and resolutions of the United Nations regarding human, social and political rights, as well as a commitment to a civil, representative future government that safeguards the rights of minorities.

    Humanitarian Assistance

    14. The Friends’ Group expressed its strong concern about the humanitarian situation in Syria, including the lack of access to basic food, medicine and fuel, as well as threats and acts of violence to medical staff, patients and facilities, in some areas. It reiterated the need urgently to address humanitarian needs, and to facilitate effective delivery of assistance and to ensure safe access to medical treatment. The Friends’ Group called on the Syrian government immediately to cease all violence and to allow free and unimpeded access by the UN and humanitarian agencies to carry out a full assessment of needs in Homs and other areas. It demanded that the Syrian regime immediately permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services to civilians affected by the violence, especially in Homs, Deraa, Zabadani and other areas under siege by the Syrian security forces. The Friends’ Group agreed that, if the Syrian regime stopped its assault on civilian areas and permitted access, it would deliver humanitarian supplies immediately. The Friends’ Group also noted the serious and growing burden carried by Syria’s neighbors in hosting refugees from Syria and committed to provide appropriate support and assistance in this regard.

    15. To this end, the Friends’ Group welcomed the United Nations’ efforts to coordinate the humanitarian response, including funding, under the leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator. The Group welcomed the Emergency Relief Coordinator’s intention to visit Syria to engage with all parties to allow impartial access for humanitarian assistance. The Group also supported the establishment by international humanitarian agencies of Humanitarian Operational Hubs in neighboring countries. It welcomed the creation of the Syria Humanitarian Forum and pledged support to the body in its role as a working group to coordinate international assistance. It reinforced the importance of maintaining a clear distinction between the humanitarian response and the ongoing political negotiations.

    16. The Friends’ Group also declared its firm commitment to contribute substantially to rebuilding Syria in the process of transition and to support the future economic recovery of the country. To this end, the Group decided to create a working group on economic recovery and development.

    17. The Friends’ Group expressed their thanks and appreciation to Tunisia for hosting this international conference. The Group agreed to meet again in Turkey in the near future. The Group also agreed that the following meeting would be hosted by France.

    ***

    GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT DISCUSSES SYRIAN CRISIS WITH TURKISH LEADER

    General Assembly chief Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser reaffirmed the necessity of finding a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria as he discussed the latest developments there with Turkish President Abdullah Gül.

    Syria, where thousands of people have been killed as a result of the Government’s ongoing crackdown against a pro-democracy uprising, was among a wide array of issues of mutual concern discussed during their meeting yesterday in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

    They also exchanged views on the two-day International Istanbul Conference on Mediation, which began today. Mr. Al-Nasser, who will be addressing the conference tomorrow, noted that the gathering paves the way for the high-level meeting that the General Assembly will be convening at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 23 May.

    In addition, the Assembly President held separate talks with senior officials at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with whom he discussed the situation in Syria, Libya and Somalia.

    Mr. Al- Nasser elaborated on the theme of mediation, the revitalization of the General Assembly and the state of the world economy, as well as the upcoming UN conference on sustainable development that will be held in Brazil in June.

    Following his visit to Turkey, the Assembly President will head to Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Council on Monday. He will then make official visits to the United Kingdom, where he is scheduled to deliver a lecture at Oxford University, and to Belgium, where he will meet the President of the European Council, King Albert II and other officials.

    Related:

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    Intervention at the Friends of Syrian People Meeting

    I salute the Arab League for its leadership throughout this crisis. I want to particularly applaud the selection of Kofi Annan as a special envoy for both the UN and the Arab League. He will seek to advance the consensus reflected in the Arab League transition plan and the UN General Assembly’s resolution, and I look forward to working with him.

    Now, we are all here because the Assad regime’s escalating violence in Syria is an affront to the international community, a threat to regional security, and a grave violation of universal human rights.

    The Assad regime has ignored every warning, squandered every opportunity, and broken every agreement.

    Faced with determined protesters demanding their rights and their dignity, the regime is creating an appalling humanitarian disaster. Tanks, mortars and heavy artillery continue to target civilians in residential areas, including women and children. Security forces have cut off electricity and communications, sabotaged water supplies, invaded hospitals, and forced thousands of Syrians to flee their homes. The UN has found crimes against humanity. And now there are reports of troops massing for even more deadly assaults.

    Here in Tunis, the international community is speaking with one voice, as we did in the UN General Assembly last week that the Assad regime’s brutal assault must stop and a democratic transition must begin. The people of Syria are looking to us in their hour of need. We cannot let them down. Let’s begin by reaffirming the core principles we’ve agreed on today:

    We strongly echo the Arab League’s demand that the Syrian Government immediately halt all attacks against civilians; guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations; release all arbitrarily detained citizens; return its military and security forces to their barracks; and allow full and unhindered access for monitors, humanitarian workers, and journalists.

    We call for a negotiated political solution to this crisis and an inclusive democratic transition to address the legitimate aspirations of Syria’s people in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation, and extremism.

    And we are firmly committed to the sovereignty, independence, national unity, and territorial integrity of Syria.

    In support of these principles, this group should take concrete action along three lines: provide emergency humanitarian relief, ratchet up pressure on the regime, and prepare for a democratic transition.

    First, humanitarian relief. Conditions in Syria are dire and getting worse. Emergency assistance is desperately needed, but the regime is doing everything it can to prevent aid from reaching those who need it. It is going after aid workers, doctors, and journalists reporting on the suffering.

    We cannot wait for this crisis to become an even greater catastrophe. Today I am announcing that the United States is providing $10 million to quickly scale up humanitarian efforts, including support for refugees. These funds will help support makeshift medical facilities, train emergency medical staff, and get clean water, food, blankets, heaters, and hygiene kits to Syrian civilians in need. This is not the end. The United States will provide more humanitarian support in coming days.

    Trusted humanitarian organizations have prepositioned humanitarian supplies at hubs in the region and they are already on the ground poised to distribute this aid if safe access can be arranged. To that end, we fully support the efforts of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to secure immediate and safe access for humanitarian workers and supplies.

    If the Assad regime refuses to allow this life-saving aid to reach civilians, it will have even more blood on its hands. So too will those nations that continue to protect and arm the regime. We call on those states that are supplying weapons to kill civilians to halt immediately.

    And that brings us to our second line of action: increasing the pressure on the Assad regime, deepening its isolation, and sending a clear message: You will pay a heavy cost for ignoring the will of the international community and violating the human rights of your people.

    We all need to look hard at what more we can do. It’s time for everyone here to place travel bans on senior members of the regime – as the Arab League has done — freeze their assets, boycott Syrian oil, suspend new investments, and consider closing embassies and consulates. For nations that have already imposed sanctions, we must vigorously enforce them.

    There should be no mistaking our resolve: These crimes against the Syrian people must stop and there must be accountability for senior figures of the regime.

    Nor should there be any doubt that the Assad’s rule is unsustainable. As we heard directly today, citizens inside and outside Syria have already begun planning for a democratic transition, from the leaders of the Syrian National Council to the grassroots local councils across the country who are organizing under the most dangerous and difficult circumstances. Supporting this process should be our third line of action.

    Assad is tearing the fabric of Syrian society and seeking to pit community against community. To repair that damage and build a sustainable democracy, all Syrians will have to work together – Alawis and Christians, Sunnis and Druze, Arabs and Kurds – to ensure that the new Syria is governed by the rule of law and respects and protects the universal rights of every citizen, regardless of ethnicity, sect, or gender.

    We view the Syrian National Council as a leading legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change and as an effective representative for the Syrian people with governments and international organization.

    As we heard today, the SNC is articulating a plan for the future, starting with an effective transition. In the coming days and weeks, we urge the full range of opposition groups and individuals in Syria, including representatives of all ethnic and religious minorities, to come together around that common vision.

    Only a genuine democratic transition will solve this crisis. As the Arab League has said, the goal should be the formation of a national unity government followed by transparent and free elections under Arab and international supervision. Assad’s departure must be part of this.

    Now I recognize that some inside Syria, especially members of its minority communities, are worried about what comes after Assad. We know that they have much more to fear from his continued rule, but their concerns are understandable. So I urge this gathering to send a strong message that the world will not tolerate the replacement of one form of tyranny with another. We will resolutely oppose acts of vengeance and retribution. And we will support a managed transition that leads to a new Syria where the rights of every citizen are respected and protected, not to chaos.

    To those Syrians who still support Assad, especially members of the Syrian military: understand that this regime has no future. The longer you carry out its campaign of violence, the more it will stain your honor. But if you refuse to take part in attacks on your fellow citizens, your countrymen will hail you as heroes.

    Syria is a proud country of 23 million people, with a rich history and ancient culture. The end of Assad can mark a new beginning for Syria. It is a chance to rebuild and strengthen the foundations of the state. If Syrians come together, and especially if the leaders of Syria’s business community, military, and other institutions recognize that their futures lie with a reformed Syrian state and not the regime, then Syria may yet emerge as a strong and unified country – a respected and responsible leader in the region.

    That should be a goal we all share. And as we move forward today, I hope we stay focused on taking concrete steps to end the violence and support the courageous people of Syria in their aspirations.

    Remarks

    Hillary Rodham Clinton
    Secretary of State

    ***

    I think today the Friends of the Syrian People sent a strong and unified message that the Assad regime’s escalating violence is an affront to the international community, a threat to regional security, and a grave violation of universal human rights. And the work that has been done by the Arab League to bring us to this point, where we put together a strong international consensus has been extremely important. The violence must end and a democratic transition begin. I applaud the selection of Kofi Annan as a special envoy for both the United Nations and the Arab League. He will seek to advance the positions reflected in the Arab League transition plan and the UN General Assembly’s resolution.

    Let’s remind ourselves what was accomplished today. The international community agreed to take a number of concrete steps that will help begin providing humanitarian relief to the Syrian people, increase the pressure on Assad and those around him, and prepare for the democratic transition.

    First, with respect to the humanitarian relief, we know that conditions are dire and getting worse, and that emergency assistance is desperately needed. But I want to underscore that the people who bear responsibility for this humanitarian catastrophe are Assad and his security forces. The regime is doing everything it can to prevent aid from reaching those who are suffering the most. Today, I announced that the United States is providing $10 million to quickly scale up humanitarian efforts, including support for the thousands of refugees who are being displaced from their homes. These funds will support makeshift medical facilities, help train more emergency medical staff, provide clean water, food, blankets, heaters, and hygiene kits to Syrian civilians.

    This is not the end. The United States will provide more humanitarian support in the coming days. We have already been working with trusted humanitarian organizations who have prepositioned supplies at hubs in the region, and they are already on the ground poised to distribute this aid if safe access can be arranged. If the Assad regime refuses to allow this lifesaving aid to reach people in need, it will have even more blood on its hands, and so too will those nations that continue to protect and arm the regime. And we call on those states that are supplying weapons to kill civilians to halt immediately.

    Second, we resolve today to ratchet up the pressure on the regime and increase its isolation. Now you know that until now, the Assad regime has ignored every warning, squandered every opportunity, and broken every agreement. But today, we heard specific additional commitments to more sanctions, new measures, including travel bans on senior officials in the regime, freezing their assets, boycotting Syrian oil, suspending new investments, and beginning the closure of embassies and consulates. In short, there must be accountability for the regime and a heavy cost for ignoring the will of the world and violating the human rights of its own people.

    Third, we heard directly from members of the Syrian opposition in person and on the video screen. We do view the Syrian National Council as a leading legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change, and as an effective representative for the Syrian people with governments and international organizations. It’s very important that in the coming days, the full range of opposition groups and individuals inside Syria, including representatives of all ethnic and religious minorities, come together and make their voices heard outside of Syria and inside around a shared vision for the future.

    Only a genuine democratic transition will solve this crisis. As the Arab League has said, the goal should be the formation of a national unity government followed by transparent and free elections under Arab and international supervision, and Assad’s departure must be part of this. Looking ahead, there should be no doubt the United States will support a managed transition that leads to a new Syria so that just like in Tunisia today, the rights of every citizen are respected and protected.

    As I told the assembled nations here today, the people of Syria are looking to us in their hour of need, and we cannot let them down. But of course, it is a difficult dilemma to face a government that is intent upon killing in the most brutal, terrible fashion, as many of their citizens as possible. Now, the world has seen terrible conflicts before, and one cannot become discouraged or impatient in trying to resolve what are often intractable, violent confrontations.

    In fact, today, we had very good news from an old conflict that has been resolving itself over time – that between Kosovo and Serbia. I well remember the ethnic cleansing, the violence, the bombings, the terrible events of that time. And I thank the European Union for bringing those two countries closer together so that Kosovo can be an equal partner in regional multilateral settings, moving toward integration in Europe, that Serbia can see a chance for it, too, to be part of the European Union. Serbia’s progress toward European integration is good for Serbia, good for Kosovo, and good for the future of the entire region.

    And it reminds us that we must stay on the path of peace. We must stand against those leaders, whoever they are and wherever they are, who use violence instead of negotiation. And I am convinced that Assad’s days are numbered. I just regret deeply that there will be more killing before he finally goes. But I hope that we will see soon the Syrian people having the opportunity that the Tunisian people now enjoy.

    QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much. Several countries at this conference, particularly the Saudi foreign minister, said well, good commitment doesn’t go nearly far enough and they feel that it’s time to arm the opposition to help them defend themselves. And you heard from Burhan Ghalioun today asking for the means for the Syrians to defend themselves. Why is this group not advocating – I understand that you don’t want a military intervention, but why not advocate giving this group the means to defend themselves?

    And last week, top military intelligence officials in the U.S. spoke a lot about their concerns about the opposition, saying it fractured, even some groups possibly infiltrated by extremists. So does that not give the U.S. concern when considering backing this group?

    SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Elise, let me say that I think it was quite remarkable, especially on such short notice – and thanks to Tunisian leadership and Arab League leadership – that all of us gathered here today reached consensus. Now, that doesn’t mean that every one of us don’t have other ideas and other recommendations, because we are all quite diverse from all over the world. But I want to stay focused on what we agreed on. We agreed on increasing the pressure on Assad, getting humanitarian aid in as quickly as possible, and preparing for a democratic transition. That was my message and that was the message of the chairman’s statement that reflected the consensus reached here.

    We want a political solution. We know that’s what’s best for the Syrian people, their future of the region, and indeed for international peace and security. I don’t think anyone wants to see a bloody, protracted civil war. We would like to see the kind of transition to democracy and peace that happened here in Tunisia.

    Our goal is to bring as much pressure to bear as we can, not only on Assad but on those around him. I said in my statement – I spoke directly to those who are supporting Assad, including members of his security forces – they’re continuing to kill their brothers and sisters is a stain on their honor. Their refusal to continue this slaughter will make them heroes in the eyes of not only Syrians but people of conscience everywhere. They can help the guns fall silent.

    We also know from many sources there are people around Assad now who are beginning to hedge their bets. They didn’t sign up to slaughter people and they are looking for ways out. We saw this happen in other settings in the last years. I think it is going to begin happening in Syria.

    Assad can still make the choice to end the violence, save lives, and spare his country from descending further into ruin. But if he continues to reject that choice, we and the Syrian people will keep pressure on him until his deadly regime cracks and collapses – because it will. I am absolutely confident of that.

    So let’s stay focused on what we accomplish today. I’ve been to a lot of meetings over many, many years – rarely one that was put together with such intense effort on such a short timetable that produced so much consensus. So let’s stay on the path we have begun on. We will obviously be taking into account at every turn everything else that we are aware of, but let’s work toward the democratic, unified, peaceful future that Syria deserves. I think we ought to take this from where we end it today. This was a productive, constructive consensus. I think that we ought to continue on the path we’re on. We will constantly be evaluating what is happening inside Syria. And let us remember that Syrians themselves, including those at the highest reaches of the Assad government, are seeing the same images that we’re seeing.

    And I believe that we will begin to hear more about internal conflict within the regime, because this is absolutely unforgiveable behavior and I do not believe that every Syrian serving the Assad regime agrees with this policy. So I would caution us to let us not move beyond where we are today until we’ve had a chance to fully implement what we agreed to.

    QUESTION: After this international conference, do you expect that you will ask the UN and mainly Security Council to discuss again, negotiate and to ask mainly Russia and China to (inaudible) make pressure for Syrian regime? And for the public (inaudible) I mean, we are divided and we have hundreds of people involved (inaudible). A lot of people are scared that many (inaudible) of the Syrian regime, one million Palestinians, and all Palestinian (inaudible).

    SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t agree with the second question. I don’t see any connection there, so I don’t agree with that. I think that is a separate, very important issue that we have to continue to deal with. But I think there will be refugees. We are seeing refugees in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Syria – out of Syria into Turkey, I mean. So there will be refugees, but I think that that’s a problem that we have to take into account as we deal with Syria.

    With respect to your first question though, it’s a very good question. Look, I think every one of us would like to see Security Council action. The United States worked very hard to obtain a resolution from the Security Council that was vetoed by Russia and China, although it received support from every other member of the Security Council from Latin America to Africa to Europe to Asia. The entire world, other than Russia and China, were willing to recognize that we must take international action against the Syrian regime.

    I would be willing to go back to the Security Council again and again and again, but we need to change the attitude of the Russian and Chinese governments. They must understand they are setting themselves against the aspirations not only of the Syrian people but of the entire Arab Spring, the Arab Awakening. They are basically saying to Tunisians, to Libyans, to others throughout the region, well, we don’t agree that you have a right to have elections, to choose your leaders. I think that is absolutely contrary to history. And it is not a position that is sustainable. So the sooner the Russians and the Chinese move toward supporting action in the Security Council, the sooner we can get a resolution that would permit us to take the kind of steps that we all know need to be taken.

    So thank you for asking that, because it’s quite distressing to see two permanent members of the Security Council using their veto when people are being murdered – women, children, brave young men – houses are being destroyed. It is just despicable. And I ask, whose side are they on? They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people, and they need to ask themselves some very hard questions about what that means for them as well as the rest of us.

    Source. 

    More :

    ***

    Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton following the meeting of the Friends of Syria in Tunis

    I participated today in the first meeting of the Friends of the Syrian people. As we witnessed last week at the UNGA, the overwhelming response of so many States and organizations shows the strong commitment of the international community to find a solution to the crisis that meets the demands and aspirations of the Syrian people.

    Since the beginning of the uprising we have condemned the repression, brutality and violation of human rights by the Assad regime against the civilian population. Today we are calling again for an immediate end of violence. The appalling situation in Syria calls for urgent solutions to alleviate the suffering of the people.

    Regional involvement and League of Arab States (LAS) leadership remains crucial. I have repeatedly reaffirmed the EU’s support to the LAS plan which we all have endorsed again today. The LAS plan to cease violence and begin an inclusive Syrian-led political process must be fully implemented. I want to reiterate my full support for the appointment of Kofi Annan as the UN and LAS Special Envoy for Syria. He has a challenging job but I can not think of someone more qualified for this difficult task.

    For the success of the political transition in Syria, it is also vital that the SNC and opposition groups agree on a set of shared principles for working towards an inclusive, prosperous and free Syria that respects minority rights. We urged again the opposition to strengthen its coordination.

    The humanitarian situation and lack of access for food and medical supplies is our most urgent and immediate concern. The army and military forces must withdraw from all besieged towns and cities and humanitarian agencies and the LAS must be allowed unhindered access. I welcome the UN efforts to coordinate the humanitarian response. The European Commission is playing a key role, has already committed emergency relief and will continue to fully cooperate with the UN and the AL.

    As far as sanctions are concerned, I have announced today that we will be expanding our restrictive measures on Monday and have asked my colleagues to join efforts.

    I also want to stress my appreciation to Tunisia for hosting this conference. The new free and democratic Tunisia is already contributing to the work of the international community in a decisive way and I pay tribute to their efforts.”

    ***

    Obama, “Friends of Syria” press for military intervention against Damascus

    By Alex Lantier

    It is possible to advocate such a policy only by engaging in the most shameless lying. On the one hand, US officials claim to be considering only “humanitarian” assistance for the Syrian people, while on the other they fan the flames of war—militarily backing a right-wing, Islamist-led insurgency. Their goal is the colonial re-subjugation of Syria, either by direct military conquest or by fomenting a palace coup by members of the regime who fear the loss of Russian and Chinese support.

    Syrian opposition spokesmen at the Tunis meeting told Reuters: “We are bringing in defensive and offensive weapons… It is coming from everywhere, including Western countries and it is not difficult to get anything through the borders.”

    Other diplomats speaking in Tunis also backed military intervention, choosing their words to avoid confirming that it had already begun. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called sending weapons and ammunition to pro-US forces in Syria “an excellent idea.” French and Qatari officials spoke in favor of sending forces into Syria to clear a path for “humanitarian corridors”—that is, conquering parts of Syria through which supplies can be sent to the “rebels.”

    US officials’ statements made clear that, though they do not openly acknowledge it, they are supporting the Syrian “rebels” militarily. Speaking on Thursday in London, while meeting with British, French, German and Arab diplomats before the Tunis meeting, Clinton said Assad would face “increasingly capable opposition forces.” She added, “They will from somewhere, somehow find the means to defend themselves as well as begin offensive measures.”

    Such comments expose the utterly deceitful character of the position of the US and its allies. Its hands dripping with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans killed and wounded in counter-insurgency campaigns by US occupation forces, the US government is preparing a new war on the basis of hypocritical claims that it considers Assad’s suppression of a foreign-backed insurgency to be intolerable. Responsibility for ongoing fighting in Syria lies primarily with the US and its allies.

    (Full story) 

    ***

    Hamas, “Friends” Line up Against Syria’s Assad

    by Robert M. Danin

    The “Friends of Syria” group met today in Tunis at the end of yet another violent week in Syria that witnessed the continued siege of Homs and the killing of hundreds, including two Western journalists (my pre-meeting analysis available here). More than sixty Western and Arab countries sent high level envoys to the meeting. Russia, China, and Lebanon all declined to attend. The group demanded that President Assad end government violence and open humanitarian corridors within 48 hours. Al Arabiya TV reported that the Saudi delegation walked out of the meeting as an act of protest, saying that giving humanitarian aid is not enough. Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal bin Abdel Aziz called for arming the Syrian opposition and said: “Humanitarian aid is not enough and the only solution is a consensual or forced transition of power.” Today’s meeting follows the appointment yesterday of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to serve as the joint UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria. Annan has been tasked to find an “inclusive political solution” to the deadly crisis in Syria. My broader take on how the United States should handle Syria is available here.

    (Full report) 

    ***

    Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime

    by Peter Harling , Sarah Birke

    Close to home, another Middle Eastern experience — Iraq — serves as an example on all three fronts. A political process excluding even a relatively small minority within Iraqi society led to a collective disaster. A group of returning exiles, without a social base but enjoying international support as the only visible, pre-existing “alternative,” quickly took over the transition and agreed only on splitting up power among themselves on the basis of a communal calculus. Their division of the spoils gradually contaminated the entire polity, and ultimately led to civil war. And the US, presiding over this tragedy, succeeded only in turning Iraq into a parody of itself, a country that now fits every sectarian and troubled stereotype the occupying power initially saw in it.

    All told, on a domestic level Syria has entered a struggle to bring its post-colonial era to a close. It is not simply about toppling a “regime” but about uprooting a “system” — the Arabic word nizam conveniently evoking both notions. The current system is based on keeping Syrians hostage to communal divisions and regional power plays. Indeed, the regime’s residual legitimacy derives entirely from playing indigenous communities and foreign powers off each other, at the expense of genuine state building and accountable leadership. Prior attempts at breaking with the legacy of colonialism, in the revolutionary bustle of the mid-twentieth century, failed, grounded as they were in narrow politicized elites and military circles. What is different today is the awakening of a broad popular movement, motivated less by parochial interests and grand ideologies than by a sense of wholesale dispossession of their wealth, dignity and destiny.

    This awakening, in a sense, is precisely what the regime has been fighting. Although foreign interference is a fact, there is less a conspiracy in Syria than a society on the move, headed along a path that the regime simply will not follow. The road ahead is a dangerous one, and the chances are real that it will lead Syria, and the region, into the maze of civil war. But for all too many Syrians there is no going back. The regime was given a year to stake out a safer way forward, but has clung ever more fiercely to its old narrative, ultimately recasting itself as a historical cul-de-sac.

    (Full analysis) 

    Mideast war in March?

    by Aaron Klein

    NATO countries are strongly considering the possibility of an international deployment to Syria if the Syrian opposition does not make major advances in the next few weeks, according to informed Middle Eastern diplomatic and security officials.

    Egyptian security officials, meanwhile, outlined what they said was large scale international backing for the rebels attacking the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad – including arms and training from the U.S., Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

    Several knowledgeable Egyptian and Arab security officials claimed the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region.

    The security officials also claimed Saudi Arabia was sending weapons to the rebels via surrogates, including through Druze and Christian leaders in Lebanon such as Druze leader Walid Jumblatt; Saudi-Lebanese billionaire Saad Hariri, who recently served as Lebanon’s prime minister; and senior Lebanese opposition leader Samir Farid Geagea.

    Syrian sources claimed to WND that Jordan’s fingerprints can be seen on the opposition forces entering the country. They claimed that just this week they shot dead 15 armed smugglers coming into the country from Jordan and that Jordanian forces helped to cover the smugglers’ tracks on the Jordanian side of the border. They said the incident did not make it to the news media.

    While Turkey, the U.S. and Arab countries may be arming the opposition, Russia has been directly aiding Assad’s forces on the ground, according to informed Middle Eastern diplomatic and security officials.

    (Full analysis) 

    ***

    Progressives Embrace Humanitarian Imperialism – Again

    by John V. Walsh

    “Foreign Intervention in Syria? A Debate with Joshua Landis and Karam Nachar.” promised the headline on DemocracyNow! of 2/22. Eagerly I tuned in, hoping to hear a thorough exposé of the machinations of the US Empire in Syria on its march to Iran.

    But this was neither exposé nor debate. Both sides, Landis and Nachar, were pro-intervention for “humanitarian” reasons. Nor did the host Amy Goodman or her co-host take these worthies to task for their retrograde views on imperial military action against a sovereign nation that had made no attack on the US. It was yet one more sign that the “progressive” movement in the West has largely abandoned its antiwar, anti-intervention stance.

    The segment began with a clip of John McCain advocating yet another war, for the good of the Syrians of course, bombing them to save them. The first guest was Joshua Landis, a prof in Oklahoma whose bio tells us that he “regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies.” The other agencies are not specified, but he speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations and similar venues. Professor Landis represents the anti-intervention voice in the universe of Amy Goodman, but his opening words manifested the limits of that universe: “Well, I’m not opposed to helping the (Syrian) opposition.” He continued, “The problem right now, the dangers right now with arming the opposition, is that we’re not sure who to arm.”

    (Full report) 

    ***

    Empire Studios’ Syrian Sequel

    by Nebojsa Malic

    Interventionism isn’t about principles; it’s about power. Even champions of intervention admit that Syria isn’t being bombed yet because that would be too difficult. That doesn’t mean they won’t try.The “American Century” may be over, but the imperialists haven’t gotten the memo.

    Syria is just like Kosovo, argued one interventionist two weeks ago, on the pages of the War Street Journal. According to Fouad Ajami, both involve a brutal dictator oppressing innocent civilians, and the Empire ought to act the same way, bypassing the U.N., and — to borrow a phrase from the late Richard Holbrooke — bombing for peace.

    Sadly, Ajami’s “logic” is shared by much of the interventionist camp. It appears that film and television aren’t the only industries that have run out of ideas, relying instead on remakes and “reboots.” Though at the time it was a near-disaster averted only through last-minute subterfuge, it is easy to see how Bill Clinton’s evil little war might be mistaken for a splendid success following the megaflops that were Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, Obama’s administration being a revival of Clinton’s, it’s no surprise that last year in Libya they green-lit a sequel.

    Trouble is, this is 2012, not 1999 — and intervention cinema is being shunned by both the critics and the box office.

    (Full analysis) 

    ***

    Will Russia Yield on Syria?

    by Suren Grigoryan

    the timing of Moscow’s activation on Syrian issue prompts the answer to the question. By the time Russia’s Foreign Minister visited Damascus, there was already enough ground to assume that the political regime in Syria was steadily heading toward a Libyan scenario. Assad’s denial to step down and transfer power to his deputy (a suggestion included in the Arab League’s plan), his belated and perhaps idle efforts aimed at reforming the country’s political system, and his overt determination to stifle political opposition by military terror had made his regime’s political future extremely questionable even before Lavrov’s arrival to Damascus. It is hardly plausible that Kremlin’s decision-makers have underestimated these factors when backing Syrian regime vis-à-vis international (particularly Western) community. Then what’s the point of standing behind the regime and its leader who has crossed all possible red lines and is virtually condemned to political fiasco?

    Moscow’s move was aimed at gaining an additional “platform” for bargaining with the West. Given the forthcoming presidential elections in Russian Federation such occasion may appear quite soon. The mass demonstrations against the candidacy of ruling party (United Russia) candidate and incumbent Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, that started in December 2011 in Moscow revealed dissatisfaction by Putin’s planned return within many segments of Russian society. Alarming numbers of demonstrators proves that despite the affluence of administrative, financial, media, and other resources that Russia’s ruling party may employ for securing Putin’s victory, the latter’s ascendance to power may be significantly thorny. Under these circumstances, Russia’s ruling class may exclude neither undesirable outcome of the elections nor post-election turbulence. If such problems arise, Russia’s political regime will become extremely susceptible to Western critique and even interference (whatever it implies), which in turn may damage Putin’s team standing significantly.

    Here, Moscow may use its position on the Syrian issue as a kind of ruse for keeping the West, and particularly the United States, away from Russia’s internal political “rumblings”. In other words, Moscow apparently counts on yielding Syria to the West in return to the latter’s non-interference to Russia’s pre- and post-election political life. It is worth mentioning also that the urgency of Syrian issue increases its bargaining value day by day.

    (Full analysis)

     

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