x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Little hope in Geneva talks

The Geneva II meeting on Syria is only a prelude to more combat, an Arab columnist says. Other comment topics today: Egypt's opposition in legal trouble, and the end of the two-state solution.

As a political solution for Syria seems unlikely, Geneva II will be prelude to more years of war

Will the Geneva II meeting be the prelude to a political solution to the Syrian crisis, or rather to a quagmire of years of militia wars? This question was asked by Mamoun Fandy in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

To answer the question, one needs to look into recent developments. Last week, there was an attempt to expand the Syrian opposition bloc to accommodate more groups.

The expansion effort revealed a fundamental disagreement among the sponsors, with one group seeking to change the regime and bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, and another attempting at the last moment to hamper any handover of power to the Brotherhood.

The second group agrees with Turkey and Qatar on regime change, but disagrees with them on delivering Syria to the Brotherhood.

Why would Turkey and Qatar settle for anything less than regime change within a unified Syria? If the Syrian conflict continues for another year and escalates into Shiite-Sunni guerrilla warfare - with the regime being a party to that - the inevitable outcome would be the emergence of an Alawite state on the coast and a Kurdish state joining the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey.

Under that scenario, Turkey would be the biggest loser. It has 12 million Alawites who could prefer to live in an Alawite state on the Syrian coast and the Sanjak of Alexandretta. A divided Syria could also take a bite out of the Kurdish part of Turkey. A Kurdish statelet in Syria might be the nucleus of a greater nation, cutting parts from Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

So while Turkey works towards regime change and the Brotherhood taking office in Syria, the emergence of a divided Syria remains its biggest concern. Qatar shares this concern, too.

On the other hand, Iran, Hizbollah and Nouri Al Maliki in Iraq want the current regime to stay in power despite the death toll of up to 100,000 so far.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are somewhere in the middle. They are utterly opposed to Iran's axis but have a vision different from that of Turkey and Qatar: they support regime change, provided the Brotherhood does not take power.

The expansion of the Syrian opposition reveals a difference of opinion among rebel backers, in contrast to the consistent stance of Russia and Iran.

Given the lack of a governance blueprint that takes into account the interests of the region's countries, the Geneva peace talks will be the prelude to a quagmire that will last for years; they will not be the beginning of a solution.

A good thing, however, is that the conference might help crystallise the parties' visions and move the conflict from regional to global. Change in Syria and the region will be decided by global players, the writer said.

Egypt's prosecutor targets opposition

Worrisome, to say the least, is the recent news from Egypt of allegations levelled by some lawyers against prominent members of the opposition, columnist Mohamed Obeid wrote in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej yesterday.

Egypt's higher national security public prosecutor is looking into "momentous accusations" against Hamdeen Sabahi, the prominent opposition leader; Mohamed ElBaradei, leader of the Constitution Party; and Mohamed Adel, one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, the writer said.

These include "calling for the overthrow of the system of rule", "spreading false information about the actual number of people who have signed a petition of no confidence against President Morsi", "acting outside constitutional legitimacy" and "creating disorder and disturbing public security and social peace".

In an attempt to push for a snap presidential election, opponents of the ruling Justice and Freedom Party have launched a so-called "Rebel" campaign, in which they set out to collect 15 million signatures of people opposed to President Mohammed Morsi by June 30.

In late May, the Rebel campaigners said they had collected over 7.5 million signatures.

These developments do not augur well for an already fragile Egypt, the writer said, noting that "dialogue alone" could absorb the reigning bitterness.

Two-state solution is no longer viable

Burying one's head in the sand and talking about the two-state solution's chances are useless. The solution is dead, trampled down by Israel's settlements, land grabbing, Judaisation schemes and segmentation practices, the West Bank-based daily Al Quds said in its editorial on Monday.

The Palestinian Authority did everything possible to allow the peaceful option to succeed. It acquiesced in giving up about 78 per cent of Palestine's historical territory, and adhered to negotiations as the only way towards agreement. Their efforts were met with more transgressions and settlement schemes.

"In practice, the demise of the two-state solution must urgently give rise to calls for a one-state binational solution where Palestinians and Jews live together," the paper proposed.

"It is but a logical outcome for Israel's short-sighted policies and actions."

In light of this new reality, the Palestinian leadership is required to reassess its position and review its plans. It can't go on pretending that there is still hope for an independent Palestinian state.

"Time isn't on our side. The future of our land and our people must compel decision-makers to begin the review process immediately," the paper stressed.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk