x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Will Arab-Russian ministers meeting end violence in Syria?

One Arabic newspaper asks: Can the Arab-Russian ministers meeting change the rules of the game for Syria? Other newspapers discuss the impact of Syria's crisis on Lebanon, and Egypt's presidential election.

Arab foreign ministers met their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Cairo yesterday to discuss the situation in Syria and to attempt to convince Moscow to discontinue its support for the Assad's regime, especially at the UN Security Council.

The Arab ministers' meeting coincided with a visit by the international diplomat Kofi Annan to Damascus in a mission to reach a peaceful resolution to the crisis through a proposed dialogue between the opposition and the authorities.

However, the opposition itself is internally divided between support and opposition to the political settlement amid accusations of treason and increasing clamour for international interference, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi said in its Saturday editorial.

"Those who are urging external intervention seem to forget that western states are unwilling to sacrifice their sons and daughters and get involved in a perilous military adventure, especially at this time when western economies are in a state of bankruptcy. Syria doesn't have the vast oil reserves that Iraq and Libya have," the paper said.

For its part, the Syrian regime continues to take advantage of the obvious international tepidness toward the military option in Syria. At the same time, it enjoys unlimited Russian backing that allows it to continue its unrestrained attacks on pro-democracy protesters.

The Syrian human rights observatory reported that security forces and the Syrian army killed 60 people on Friday in various parts of the country. These figures show that the regime is willing to use the highest degree of violence to quell the uprising in a short period of time. "But all of its attempts are vain. It is evident that the Syrian people will not stop the uprising and they are willing to make whatever sacrifices that may take," suggested the paper.

Mr Annan's insistence on dialogue as the only way out reflects a growing Arab-western desire and conviction that the situation in Syria has reached a dead-end.

The Arab meeting with the Russian diplomat in Cairo is an implicit confession of previous strategic mistakes on their part when they totally neglected Russia and China when dealing with the Syrian case in favour of the US and the West.

The Arabs are attempting to persuade Russia that it isn't in its best interest to sacrifice all the Arab countries to win only one ally. But such an argument isn't necessarily foolproof. Moscow's confidence in the Arabs and their American allies is absent especially after it was duped in Libya and Iraq.

"The Arab foreign ministers must realise that they have lost Russia and China without fully gaining America and the West on their side. State actions are determined by interests and not emotions or principles."

Lebanon dragged into Syria's suffering

Syrian security and military forces have always granted themselves liberty to cross the border into Lebanon to impose their will on a weak neighbour. But since the uprising started in Syria, such transgressions have intensified. The killing and kidnapping of Syrian opposition elements occur almost everyday in Lebanon, wrote the columnist Abdel Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"Nonetheless, one must be realistic and understand the Lebanese foreign minister's rejection of the US ambassador's call for the protection of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, both civilian and military. Such protection would require the deployment of Lebanese forces along the Syrian border with a readiness for military action. It is a responsibility far bigger than what the Lebanese state could assume," he argued.

At the same time, the Lebanese government is expected to reject the Syrian ambassador's request, which pressures it to become another one of its goons and extradite Syrian refugees and defectors to their deaths.

"As much as the Lebanese state can't be expected to risk a confrontation with the Syrian regime, it shouldn't allow itself to take care of its dirty work. As for the US ambassador, it is unwise to lecture Lebanon, while her country is reticent to assist in the protection of the Syrians out of fear of an alternative regime or civil war," the writer said.

Egyptian presidential race is premature

The candidacies for the Egyptian presidential race next May began yesterday while many issues surrounding the controversial articles in the constitution remain unresolved, said the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its editorial.

"In the absence of an accredited list of presidential candidates and electoral programmes that are up to par with the hefty sacrifices that the Egyptians have made for decades, the continuing controversy about constitutional issues may further complicate the situation and could lead to clashes and turmoil," opined the paper.

The criteria for the contenders must be well defined and they must address the people's concerns. More than one year into the revolution, Egypt still faces challenges that are either inherited from the previous era or surfaced after the revolution.

It is only natural that the political scene would witness additional momentum and activity as the date nears for the election of the first post-revolution president.

"As of today, each candidate in Egypt has a mission to get the approval of the public, which will be expected to elect its president conscientiously and according to the country's best interests," the paper concluded.




* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem