In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

‘Chaotic’ meeting exposes divisions on Syria

Posted by seumasach on February 27, 2012

This is an end of empire scenario if ever there was one and it’s heartwarming to see the imperialists and their satellites in total disarray as their nefarious schemes come unstuck.

EU Observer

25th February, 2012

A first meeting of the Friends of Syria group has highlighted divisions inside the coalition and among Syrian opposition leaders.

Officials and ministers from over 60 African, Arab, Asian, Latin American and Nato countries met in Tunis on Friday (24 February) to discuss what to do about the sectarian war in Syria.

A core group – including Egypt, the EU’s External Action Service, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK and the US – drafted a formal communique in the name of the coalition, which repeated the content of a draft UN resolution vetoed last month by China and Russia.

The statement said Syrian leader Bashar Assad should step down and hold elections under Arab League supervision. It called for worldwide economic and diplomatic sanctions. But it did not endorse military intervention and it did not recognise the Syrian National Council (SNC), an opposition group, as Syria’s new government, calling it “a” but not “the” legitimate representative of the anti-Assad movement.

Delegates also agreed to meet again in Turkey in March and, later on, in France.

One EU diplomat in Tunis called the event “chaotic,” with ministers going in and out for bilateral huddles. Some EU delegations left early for other commitments.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia emerged as hawks.

Saudi foreign minister Saud Faisal told press the Friends of Syria should ship arms to rebels: “I think it would be an excellent idea … because they need to protect themselves.” Qatar and Tunisia called for Arab countries to send in troops.

British foreign minister William Hague ruled out military aid, however. France, Turkey and the US stayed silent on the issue.

For their part, SNC delegates said they were disappointed by the outcome. They added in their own communique that: “The Friends of Syria should not constrain individual countries from aiding the Syrian opposition by means of military advisers, training and provision of arms.”

Meanwhile, a rival Syrian opposition group, the National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change, boycotted the event. It complained the SNC is getting preferential treatment and that hawks are using the meeting to legitimise military action.

China and Russia also declined to send anyone to Tunis in a sign of their ongoing support for Assad.

Another EU diplomat noted there is division even inside the EU camp.

He said it was a “mistake” to meet in Tunis, the symbolic birthplace of the Arab Spring, because it gives the false impression the sectarian war in Syria is an Arab-Spring-type democratic movement.

He added that EU support for an Arab-League-led transition in Syria has fortified Assad’s “siege mentality” because the Arab League is dominated by Qatar and Saudi Arabia – two Sunni Muslim powers which are long-standing sectarian enemies of Assad’s Alawite Muslim regime.

EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday plan to unveil a set of further anti-Assad sanctions.

Diplomatic sources said the Union will add seven regime members to the EU blacklist and take one name off the existing register. It will also blackball the Syrian central bank, forbid EU countries from letting Syrian cargo planes land at their airports and ban trade in Syrian gold and gems.

The accompanying EU statement is to endorse the Tunis communique and deplore Assad’s slaughter of civilians in Homs. It will call for the Syrian opposition to form a united front and to respect the rights of all minorities, amid reports that Sunni Muslim rebels are also committing atrocities against Alawite prisoners.

In a footnote to events, a businessman in Tripoli, in neighbouring Lebanon, last week told this website that the 11-month-old unrest in Syria has led to increased looting of antiquities.

The 36-year-old cafe owner offered to sell EUobserver a gold, classical-era medallion from over the border.

He said his best customers are European and American diplomats because they have money and because they can use diplomatic privileges to smuggle items out of Lebanon.

2 Responses to “‘Chaotic’ meeting exposes divisions on Syria”

  1. jon said

    Personally I think the Freedom Army should be armed by the west, considering the fascist dictatorship is armed by Russia. It is Russian tanks, rockets and bullets that are murdering civilians in their thousands. The Freedom Army should be given as much weapons as they can handle, so that they can protect those people desperate for a free life. Assad as no legitimacy. He is a fascist dictator, ruling a terrorist regime.

  2. seumasach said

    Clearly, it is being armed, and trained, by the West.

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