x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

The Kurds' losing wager in Istanbul

At Syrian opposition talks in Istanbul, Kurdish spokesmen were unwise to make an issue of the proposed name Syrian Arab Republic, says an Arabic-language commentator. Other subjects: Mubarak's trial, Israel and Turkey, and Russia's reaction to the Arab Spring

Representatives of Syria's Kurds have withdrawn from the National Salvation Congress in Istanbul, in protest over the designation "Syrian Arab Republic", columnist Daoud al Sharyan noted in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The Kurds called for the elimination of the word "Arab" from the congress's emblem and from the name of the future nation to which they aspire.

The Istanbul congress, which included a myriad of figures from the Syrian opposition, unveiled disputes that had not surfaced during two previous congresses.

The congress was accused of supporting Islamic powers and co-ordinating with the Turkish government to weaken the role of Kurds.

The Kurds argue that the word "Arab" in the country's name signals a revival of the Baathist ideology. This is a mere pretext, and void, but it did create fear of an uncertain future for Syria amid separatist conflicts and tendencies.

"Syrian Kurds have undoubtedly suffered pursuit and persecution just as did many of their countrymen. [But] adherence to a complex of persecution, and the attempt to separate the country from its Arab history, can also be perceived as an act that could drag Syria into a civil war."

This shows a lack of political sense. Turkey, which is now siding with the Syrian opposition, may decide to revise its position should it sense any Kurdish aspirations in the new Syria.

Mubarak's trial must be delayed no longer

This week's changes to Egypt's cabinet are certainly the fruit of the pressure applied by the youth through their uninterrupted sit-in in Liberation Square in Cairo, observed the daily Al Quds Al Arabi. But this is just one small step on the long road of demands.

"Prime Minister Essam Sharaf wants to prove that he has won the power to designate or dismiss ministers and that he no longer entirely submits to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces," the paper said.

The top revolutionary demands are for fair punishments for the killings of the revolution's martyrs and for an end to the infamous military trials of civilians.

However, the military council is so far avoiding the trial of Hosni Mubarak, the former president, and should divulge its reasons for doing so. Egyptians want to know why Mr Mubarak hasn't been tried yet. Is it due to alleged US, Israeli or Saudi pressures, or is it simply military reticence to try one of their own, as Mr Mubarak was once a military commander.

The military council has provided various pretexts for not presenting Mr Mubarak for justice. On Sunday, his lawyer said Mr Mubarak is comatose, a claim formally denied by Egyptian TV.

"If the objective of these leaks is to emotionally extort Egyptians and support the tendency to exempt him from trial, we doubt that such a method would be successful since the Egyptian people want to see justice take its course," said the daily.

Israel wants better relations with Turkey

Israel has been showing an increased keenness to improve relations with Turkey, columnist Mazen Hammad noted in the Qatari Al Watan daily. The Israelis are showing signs of flexibility in this, he said.

According to the Israeli press, the ministry of defence in occupied Jerusalem is eager to reach a sustainable settlement with Ankara, even if the price is a formal apology for the attack on the SS Mavi Marmara and the killing of nine Turkish activists.

It is true that Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, thinks an apology by Israel would be an insult to his state. But the minister of defence, Ehud Barak, deems the insult preferable to the numerous lawsuits being prepared against Israel.

Mr Barak also perceives that a resolution of Turkish-Israeli issues would help Ankara play a vital role in Syria, Iran, and Lebanon and with Hamas.

There are signs of an effort to normalise relations between Turkey and Israel, although Turkey's conditions include not only the apology but also the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

Experts are saying that a normalisation of Turkish-Israeli relations would enable Ankara to revive the cold peace between Israel and the Arabs. Israel's apology for the Marmara incident could even influence the Palestinian plan to extract international recognition for an independent state.

Russia seems clueless about Arab spring

"During five months since the start of the Arab Spring", columnist Rajeh al Khouri wrote in the Lebanese daily Annahar, "Russia has appeared as the echo of a voice from an archaic world".

Russia seems to "oppose any development or evolution in the shameful reality of those political regimes that are still ruling Arab countries with methods reminiscent of the Iron Curtain-era in the Soviet Union," the writer said.

At the start of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the Russian foreign office was thrown into confusion. It was reserved and cautious in dealing with the revolution in Tunisia, and outright opposed the revolution in Egypt.

As the Libyan revolution surged, it was clear that Moscow feared losing its $6 billion (Dh22billion) weapons deals with Colonel Muammar Qaddafi more than it dreaded the regime's massacres of the rebels. In Yemen, all the Russians managed to do was express reservations about change.

And in Syria Moscow has adamantly and expressly opposed any interference with or pressure on the Al Assad regime.

"The Arab world is definitely changing," said the writer. '"It is most interesting that the Russians are dealing with the change with the rigid mentality of their Soviet ancestors."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem