19 November 2011, 14:59

Syria at crossroads

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

The Syrian authorities basically accept the idea of allowing a large group of international observers to visit Syria, something the Arab League has been pressing for. All Damascus suggests is making changes to the proposal without specifying the nature of such changes.

We have received the answer and are studying it, said the Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Araby. The League initially demanded that 500 observers, - human rights activists, reporters and military experts should be allowed to arrive in Syria on a fact-finding mission. Their recommendations should help implement the peace plan that the Arab League adopted a few days ago. The plan mainly seeks a withdrawal of Army units and military hardware from the cities, the release of all political prisoners and the authorities’ dialogue with the opposition.

So far, just one of the demands has been met and, besides, only partially. 1,180 people were released from prisons earlier this week. The opposition claims that many of the released are ordinary criminals whom the authorities used to break up demonstrations and for demonstrative torture.

During its Rabat-held meeting on Wednesday, the Arab League gave Bashar Assad three days to stop the armed suppression of street protests, or else face certain sanctions. The demand followed the death of 70 people this past Monday alone. But let us remember that the other party to the Syrian conflict is also responsible for the escalation of tension. Just hours before the ultimatum was delivered to Damascus, Army defectors,- members of the so-called Syrian Liberation Army, used grenade launchers to bring the building of Syrian special services under fire. Such a well-coordinated attack proves that the conflict is spiralling up into a more dangerous stage, says the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and elaborates.

"The situation, Sergei Lavrov says, is perfectly suggestive a very real civil war. The Arab League’s demand that violence should be put paid to needs to be specified. To implement the Arab League initiative, we suggest that all countries that are concerned about a peaceful settlement in Syria should demand that it is not only the Syrian authorities, but also every single opposition group should stop violence. This should be done both on behalf of the Arab League and on behalf of the countries that have hosted the Syrian opposition."

Meanwhile, attacks of the so-called Syrian Liberation Army are gaining momentum. Buildings of the ruling party in the northwest of the country have already been brought under fire. Time has obviously been lost when some protesters or opposition officials were still prepared to negotiate with President Bashar Assad, says an analyst with the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies Vladimir Akhmedov, and elaborates.

"While at first people demanded reforms, lifting the state of emergency and carrying out socio-economic transformations, now they want President Assad and his team to resign, Vladimir Akhmedov says. It is therefore safe to claim that the opposition is waiting for a change, for the time when power is handed over to the forces that the opposition is prepared to sit down at the negotiating table with."

On Friday, the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned of Syria’s sliding towards civil war. He allowed for foreign military interference and said that the United Nations should authorize such move if it considered it necessary. But Russia and China are very likely to veto the initiative. To turn Syrian into another Libya would be an obvious overkill even for Bashar Assad’s most rabid opponents. For he who sows the wind may well reap the whirlwind.

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