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Syria's fragmentation unacceptable, Jordan monarch

King Abdullah of Jordan tells an Arabic newspaper that Syrian settlement, when it comes, must keep the country intact. Other newspapers comment on the resignation of a Tunisian army chief, and unbridled rise of sectarianism.

Syrian settlement, when it comes, must keep the country intact, Jordan's monarch tells paper

Jordan is being flung into "the heart of the Syrian crisis" as nearly 550,000 Syrian refugees are now sheltered on Jordanian soil, while the conflict still shows no sign of abating, King Abdullah of Jordan told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat in an interview published yesterday.

Asked if any channels of communication are open between Amman and Damascus, through which Jordanian officials could share their point of view and offer advice, King Abdullah said: "Let me answer by asking you the following question: Do you see in official Syrian actions anything that suggests their willingness to accept counsel from a country like Jordan, a country that holds democracy and peace as its philosophy of government and way of life?

"Unfortunately not. Advice is no longer heard since the choice of violence was made. Despite our sincere efforts at the beginning of the crisis to extend a helping hand we were ignored.

"We kept trying, through the media and diplomacy," he went on, "to send one reminder after another about the gravity of slipping down the slope of violence, blood and destruction."

King Abdullah was firm that all talk about the idea of letting Syria split into smaller states must dismissed.

He defended instead a political solution in which all Syrians would be involved, under an international umbrella.

"Dividing Syria is in no one's interest, and trying to undermine its unity would be a recipe for destruction," the King observed. "Let us scratch these ideas off our glossaries and go back to the best and most rational solution which now hinges on the efforts to organise an international conference to enforce the decisions that were agreed upon in Geneva in 2012.

"These decisions include an immediate halt to the violence, the start of a comprehensive political process of transition, and involving all - and, I insist, all - of the components of Syrian society, coupled with a review and reconciliation process.

" This," the monarch continued, is to be followed by real political reform, as would be agreed by the Syrians themselves, while relief efforts would be intensified inside Syria to speed up the process of letting refugees return back home."

About the tragic spiral of bloodshed gripping the country for over two years now, as the fighting continues between the Free Syrian Army and President Bashar Al Assad's forces, King Abdullah said: "it is painful to see Syria, the cradle of the most ancient civilisations in human history, turn into a medley of violence and hatred.

"It equally pains me, and pains the Jordanian people, to see Syrian blood being spilt. It really has got to a point where everyone, inside and outside Syria, must stop and say: Enough."

Army chief resigns, startling Tunisians

Tunisian Army Chief of Staff Gen Rachid Ammar dropped a bombshell on Tuesday by announcing his retirement, Tunisian journalist Mohamed Krishan wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Gen Ammar is the man who reportedly said "no" in early 2011 when then-president Ben Ali told him to order troops to fire on protesters. He keeps a low profile, but in the Ettounsiya television interview where he said he will retire, he seemed like a man who wanted to throw off a heavy burden, the writer said.

Gen Ammar said he had been offered the presidency following Mr Ben Ali's departure, but had declined. He also said he will have more to divulge after he changes to civilian clothes, adding that he had become an "annoying" person in some quarters.

Gen Ammar argued that the legitimacy of Tunisia's current authority was damaged when left-wing opposition leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down in February. He cited a growing threat of terrorism, as intelligence services become less efficient.

Gen Ammar's resignation will fuel anxiety among Tunisians. The army was the last bastion of cohesion after the elite and police fell down in their duties.

The strongest man in the army appeared on TV to speak about his concerns. A few months earlier the minister of defence announced on TV that he did not want to retain his post. These are very worrying signs indeed.

Beast of sectarianism has been unleashed

Recent tensions suggest that the sectarianism has been awakened and unleashed, Bater Mohamed Ali Wardam argued in the Jordanian newspaper Addustour.

In Egypt, four Shiite men were killed on Sunday by a group of villagers who boasted of their act, saying that the victims were spreading Shiism in Sunni Egypt.

In Lebanon, gunfire between Sunni Salafists and Shiite groups has been reported in several places. In Iraq, old grudges, buried for years, are reviving. And in Amman, Muslim Brotherhood members chanted unprecedented sectarian slogans in a demonstration.

"The beast of sectarianism has been awakened across the Arab-Muslim world," the writer warned.

Strictly speaking, that beast was awakened two years ago by the Assad regime's sectarian-fanned atrocities against the Syrian people. This became clear when Hizbollah fighters joined the regime to attack Al Qusayr this spring.

The monster of sectarianism needs to feed to survive, and it has found food in the extremist Salafist leaders.

Some will applaud the killing of Shiites, some of Sunnis, others of secularists, Christians and people of different faiths. But condoners will pay the price one day because hatred and mayhem spare no one, he cautioned.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae

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