x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Arab cannot sever ties with Russia over support for Syrian regime

Arabic language editorials on why Middle East countries should maintain strong ties with Russia, the plight of Muslims in Myanmar and the exodus of Syrian refugees.

Russia's negative attitude towards the revolution by the majority of the population in Syria is infuriating the multitude of Arab peoples who sympathise with the rebels and are calling for a firm international stance to help them prevail, noted the columnist Sarkis Naoum in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

Since the start of the revolution, Russia has used its veto right three times at the United Nations Security Council to foil crucial resolutions that would end the suffering and relieve Syrians of the tyranny they have had to coexist with for decades.

Russia's staunch support has given President Bashar Al Assad and his staff the impression that they are immune and that their chaotic security solutions will eventually nip the uprising in the bud.

This led incensed Arab peoples to urge their governments to exert pressure on Moscow to persuade it to change its position. Some people even called for severing diplomatic and economic ties with Russia, but none of the Arab governments acquiesced.

This was "not in the least because they are comfortable with Russia's backing for Mr Al Assad and his regime, but rather for a number of reasons", Naoum said.

It is true that Russia is no longer a superpower, but it is still a major power with formidable economic and military capabilities. The international community in its entirety needs to maintain peaceful relations with Russia if it hopes to find solutions for many a regional or international conflict.

Despite the Arab revolutions and the privileged economic and strategic interests that could be reaped from better relations with some of the Arab countries, Russia isn't a poor state.

Any economic lapses it may have experienced, back in the Soviet days or afterwards, were in no way due to lack of resources, the writer said.

In its quest to share world power with the United States, the defunct Soviet regime focused all of the country's resources on the arms race and neglected to provide economic welfare for its peoples.

The later transition to the post-Soviet market economy and political freedom was chaotic and allowed for the fast emergence of wealth.

"Added to all that, decisions of the calibre of severing ties with Russia require consultation, if not authorisation, from the US, the ally of most Arab countries, which seems reticent to give it at the moment," opined Naoum.

The US has repeatedly vetoed resolutions related to the Israeli cause and has been blatantly defending Israel's aggressions against Palestinians and Arabs in general. Nonetheless, Arabs never disconnected with it.

Why would they suspend their relations with Russia, which has supported their primary cause for decades?

Massacre in Myanmar, but the world is silent

Muslims in Myanmar have been facing genocide for almost a month now, yet the event still attracts little to no attention from the international community, Fahmi Huwaidi wrote in the Cairo-based daily Al Shorouk.

The suffering of Muslims is not new. After Myanmar achieved independence in 1948, the constitution did not recognise the Rohingya Muslims living in Arakan province, under the pretext that their forefathers were not an indigenous ethnic race.

"Since then, the Rohingyas have not been treated as citizens by the authorities or Buddhist-majority," he said. They have faced all kinds of discrimination, repression and displacement.

Muslims have been denied access to higher education and government jobs. They are not allowed to travel abroad even for pilgrimage. They cannot even move from one village to another, and can't enter the capital.

Yet, they are recruited into the army to undertake all sorts of hard labour, while traders have to pay huge taxes and farmers are allowed to sell their crops only to the army. Whoever violates these instructions faces jail or execution.

If a Muslim commits an offence, all the community faces collective punishment.

The daunting question is not the inattention of the international community to the Rohingyas' agonies, but the silence of the Muslim world, and Al Azhar in particular, the writer concluded.

Syrians, Palestinians share refugee camps

It is ironic that the Palestinian refugees at Yarmouk Camp in Syria are now sharing Ramadan breakfasts with Syrian refugees over newspaper-tablecloths filled with a dictator's speeches on resistance and the liberation of Palestine, Khalaf Al Harbi said in an opinion piece for the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

When Israel occupied Palestine more than 60 years ago, scores of Palestinians sought refuge in neighbouring Arab countries, including Syria. They were accommodated in makeshift camps to wait for the day of return after the liberation of their home country.

Over the years, as the hope of return faltered, these camps turned into neighbourhoods that hosted generations of Palestinians.

Yarmouk Camp is one such camp. In it, Palestinian refugees would hear, day and night, that the Syrian Baath Party would, at any moment, liberate Palestine and return them to their land.

But what happened this week was unimaginable: Palestinian refugees were taken aback by hundreds of Damascenes fleeing the Al Assad regime's troops and seeking refugee in their camp.

Similarly, the Iraqi army which intervened, four decades ago, to rescue Damascus from a possible Israeli invasion, has become today a puppet at the hands of Tehran.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk