x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Some outsiders are meddling in Syrian crisis

Countries that call themselves "friends of Syria" must unify their strategy for dealing with the conflict, instead of advancing their own interests.

The endless bickering within Syria's opposition is compounding the crisis that has plagued the country for over two years. And some countries that say they want to support Syrians to end the conflict are only adding to this dismal state of affairs.

On Sunday Moaz Khatib, the opposition leader who proved to be a relatively independent voice for the Syrian people, resigned as president of the opposition National Coalition. His departure, still shrouded in mystery, came two days before today's Arab League summit, in Doha.

That meeting convenes among clear indications that regional countries, pulling different elements of the Syrian opposition towards their own agendas, are exerting significant influence, worsening the frictions.

For two years, calls for unity have focused on the Syrian opposition. But the latest episode shows that countries that call themselves "friends of Syria" must unify their strategy for dealing with the conflict. It is unhelpful that each country seeks to advance its own interests, rather than ending the bloodshed as a top priority.

The formation of an interim government is a fine example of such interference. This move, with these people, had been publicly rejected by many opposition figures and even by forces on the ground. But Turkey, Qatar and the United States are understood to have pressured the opposition to form the government and to appoint one particular person as its head. That man, Ghassan Hitto, stated immediately after his appointment, that he would not accept any dialogue with the regime.

Other countries, more usefully, favour a negotiated settlement that would depose Bashar Al Assad and his cronies, but without wrecking Syria's administrative machinery.

Setting up this government does not serve this goal, and seems meant to doom any negotiated settlement.

Such divisive interference must end. Countries in the region, especially the Arabian Gulf states, Jordan and Turkey, must agree on common strategies for deposing Bashar Al Assad and maintaining Syria's unity. Existing military councils and provisional councils must be protected and supported.

Other countries are working at cross purposes in Syria, and this has perpetuated the conflict, and even fuelled infighting among rebel combat units.

The situation is getting worse every day. The world must act to help the Syrians, mostly by doing more - but in some cases by doing less.