x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Syrian split from Arab League grows

The new stridency suggests more escalation of the diplomatic aspect of Syria's crisis, a leading columnist suggests. Other topics: Israeli-Palestinian talks, and discord in Libya.

Regime's reaction to Arab League decisions will mean only more escalation of the Syrian crisis

The Arab League's decisions on Syria, Damascus' reaction to them and the withdrawal of GCC monitors indicate that the crisis is heading towards more escalation, columnist Mazen Hammad suggested in the Qatari daily Al Watan.

The Syrian command saw the League's decisions as a violation of its national sovereignty and as blatant interference in its internal affairs. The Syrian authorities called the decisions a shameless infringement on the purposes for which the Arab League had been established in the first place.

The Syrians condemned the Arab decision, dismissing it as a tool to implement foreign conspiracy schemes against Syria.

The irate, stubborn Syrian response came after the Arab body called for a national unity government, featuring members of the present regime as well as members from the opposition, be formed within a period of two months.

The League statement reiterated previous calls to the authorities in Damascus to withdraw the armed forces from the streets, to allow peaceful demonstrations, and to release prisoners and allow Arab and international media to report freely on events in the country.

"Since Damascus has accused the League of intentionally neglecting Syria's efforts to implement comprehensive reforms aimed at rebuilding a renewed Syria, including the new constitution that will be submitted for a popular referendum, the schism between both sides has widened and matters have reached the point of no return," said the writer.

The League's decisions didn't stop at that; they also provided for the implementation of the provisions of the Arab initiative and preparations for free parliamentary and presidential elections under Arab and international supervision.

The Arab resolutions on Syria demanded a solution like the one in Yemen, by which President Bashar Al Assad will delegate power to his deputy, Farouq Al Sharea.

The discrepancies between the Arab position on one hand and the Syrian reaction on the other foretell a serious escalation of the Syrian crisis at the level of the country's relationship with the Arab League and with the international community.

The harsh government reaction betrayed the beginning of an alarming animosity in the Arab World.

"In light of all this, the protests, which amount to more than 400 daily throughout Syria, are expected to increase in intensity," the writer added. "A fast degeneration of the situation is also to be anticipated although no clear or imminent end for this complicated tragedy can be seen."

The only firm expectation at this time is that the international pressure on Syria will intensify considerably in the coming days and weeks.

Are the pro-Qaddafi forces coming back?

Mixed reports from the city of Bani Walid, once the stronghold of the late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, suggest that bloody clashes are taking place between National Transitional Council (NTC) militias and supporters of the defunct regime, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said in its editorial.

The Libyan interior minister, Fawzi Abdul Aal, denied the reports, saying the clashes were of "an interior" nature, without specifying what that might mean. We do know that at least five people were killed.

"The NTC … does not want to recognise that there are indeed supporters of the country's former leader who want to stoke instability," the newspaper said.

Libya is currently riddled with complex issues, some such as lack of institutions being inherited from the past, others such as hostilities between tribes and militias emerging in the present, the newspaper went on.

"The prospect of supporters of the old regime coming back as renegades is therefore not entirely out of the question. One thing is clear: they are there somewhere. A regime that lasted for more than 40 years has necessarily been propped up by a circle of beneficiaries and devotees."

The NTC chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, warned this week that Libya is on the verge of slipping into an abyss - a "terrible prospect" nobody wants in the North African country, the paper concluded.

More meetings, but still no progress

The present scene in the Palestinian occupied territories indicates that the Israelis aren't at all interested in peace or negotiations. Their chief concern at the moment is to implement their expansionist plans, the Jordanian newspaper Addustour said in its editorial.

Tomorrow is the final date that the Quartet has set for a resumption of direct negotiations. However, Palestinian-Israeli meetings in Jordan have yet to yield any breakthrough, which means the impediments to a return to negotiations have not been lifted.

The Palestinians, aware of Israel's attempts to stall the peace process, insist that today's meeting in Jordan would be the last. They hold the Israeli side responsible for the failure of the talks; a position that the Quartet could reflect in its political statement that should emphasise that it was indeed Tel Aviv's unwavering positions, especially on the continuation of settlement building issue, that caused the failure of the meetings.

"We call on the Arab monitoring committee to stop waiting and begin multiplying its efforts to transfer the case the UN Security Council," said the newspaper. "The Amman meetings are officially doomed and the Quartet is required to come out of its neutrality in this issue."


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem