Forging a peace plan for Syria

A group of influential countries from U.N. Security Council and Middle East will meet Saturday in Geneva to agree on an action plan for peace in Syria. The situation could hardly be more grave. Since the last spring, many thousands of Syrians have risen up to demand change. While at first they gathered peacefully, in the face of appalling government brutality some have resorted to arms. Others, especially members of minorities, have sat on fence or supported government, they fear the alternative. Resulting maelstrom has shocked the world. Battles have raged through city after city. Whole neighborhoods have been shelled into ruins. Families have been massacred. Thousands have been killed and thousands more detained, while hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. Many civilians are trapped in combat zones, not receiving medical care or humanitarian aid. (source: Kofi Annan – The Washington Post – 29/06/2012)

Violence has reached the capital, Damascus, and has spilled over to neighboring states. And as the chaos deepens, terrorist elements have sought to exploit it. In March, everyone agreed to a six-point plan that provided a ladder parties could climb down and a mechanism, U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, to help them sustain a cease-fire so political negotiations could start. But that plan has not been implemented. After an initial lull, violence got worse. Syria’s government, which bears the biggest responsibility, continues to use extreme violence against both unarmed and armed protesters. For its part, the opposition lacks unity and some elements have intensified their attacks against government forces, installations. Unarmed U.N. observers have had to suspend their activities. They remain at their posts, ready to reengage if the parties show political will. The Security Council will soon decide on the mission’s future. This conflict is among Syrians, and they must be the ones who solve it. But it would be naive to think they could, on their own, end violence now and enter into a meaningful political process. Many external powers are deeply involved. Despite formal unity behind six-point plan, mutual mistrust has made them work at cross-purposes. Intentionally or otherwise, they have encouraged the government and parts of opposition to believe that force is the only option. This serves no one’s interest, least of all that of the Syrian people. It is time for all who have influence on the parties, and all who bear responsibility for international peace and security, to act positively for peace. With the support of the secretaries general of United Nations and Arab League, I have asked participants in Saturday’s meeting to form an action group whose members will work together until peace is achieved. The participants include those with influence on the Syrian government and its opposition. Members must commit to act in unison to end the bloodshed and implement the six-point plan, avoiding further militarization of conflict. It is abundantly clear that violence will not stop without joint, sustained pressure from those with influence, including consequences for noncompliance.

But something more is essential. I expect all who attend Saturday’s meeting to agree a Syrian-led transition process must be achieved in accordance with clear principles, guidelines. There must be a democratic and pluralistic future for Syria that complies with international standards on human rights and protects the rights of all communities. This must include a government of national unity would exercise full executive powers. This government could include members of the present government and opposition and other groups, but those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation would be excluded. The transition would also include a meaningful national dialogue, a constitutional revision subject to popular approval, followed by free and fair multiparty elections. Stability and calm must be ensured throughout by functioning institutions and protection of all groups within Syria’s diverse society. There must be a commitment to accountability and to national reconciliation. There is no substitute for the hard work of helping Syrians forge their own political future, in full respect of Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. The international community has long agreed that any transition must be led by Syrians. We must come together to help the Syrian people embrace and achieve this future through peaceful means. If all participants in Saturday’s meeting are ready to act accordingly, we can turn the tide of violence and embark on a road to peace in which the Syrian people determine their future. If not, the downward spiral will continue, and may soon become irreversible. 


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

3 Responses to Forging a peace plan for Syria

  1. Major world powers on Saturday failed to reach a consensus on calling for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from power, agreeing instead on a plan for a political transition that seemed to have little chance of implementation. The meeting of nine nations in Geneva, aimed at finding a way to end the bloodshed in Syria, ended in a now-familiar division, with Russia and China blocking the rest from calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster. Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League mediator who convened the so-called Action Group, tried to put the best possible spin on the agreement, which calls for the formation of a national unity government that would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections. The agreement, he said, provided “a perspective for the future that can be shared by all in Syria, a genuinely democratic and pluralistic state.” But the plan appeared to lack support from either side in the conflict. “The Action Group on Syria just gave Assad license to kill for another year,” said Rafif Jouejati, a spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian opposition group. A pro-government Baathist Party analyst in the Syrian capital, Damascus, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Assad government had its own plan for political transition: the previously scheduled presidential elections in 2014. “This is the only way to solve the country’s crisis,” he said. Syria is a one-party state and its elections are widely viewed as neither free nor fair. The diplomatic developments were punctuated by a particularly bloody day in Syria, as more than 100 people were killed, by one estimate, most of them civilians caught in shelling. The plan agreed to in Geneva essentially repeated Mr. Annan’s earlier six-point peace plan, which had collapsed after both sides ignored it, leading to the suspension of a United Nations monitoring mission on June 16 (…..)

  2. (…..) Syria’s massive chemical arsenal poses multiple dangers as the country’s violent unrest slides into civil war. As atrocities at the hand of the Assad regime mount and the United States facilitates the arming of the rebel Free Syrian Army by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, eruption of wholesale armed conflict is probably weeks away. The outcome of the sectarian battle between Shiite Alawites and Sunnis poses enough of a regional problem. Control of chemical weapons could add mass lethality to the volatile mix. Indeed, recent insurgent advances could soon bring one facility in the vicinity of Hamah under rebel control. The unfolding threat looms large on the US strategic agenda. The Syrian arsenal is composed of hundreds of tons of classic and advanced chemical agents as well as munitions, from artillery shells to missile warheads that could have ranges as far as 500 kilometers. The chemical arsenal reportedly is concentrated in some half dozen major sites. The blister agent mustard is said to be in bulk form that must be pumped into artillery shells and other ordnance, but the nerve agents are thought to be binary form: shells and warheads containing harmless solutions that combine into deadly gasses and oils when munitions are launched. US officials note that the key chemical weapon sites are guarded by elite troops, said to be composed of Alawites loyal to the Assad regime. The United States, probably Russia, too, have surely warned Assad that use of such arms against civilians or rebel forces, foreshadowing use against civilians, is a red line that, if crossed, would inevitably trigger international intervention. Washington has certainly cautioned rebel forces against using chemical arms that may fall into their hands. Still, the dangers cannot be minimized. The most significant would be loss of control over portions of the chemical arsenal by custodians committed to maintaining their security, triggered by any number of scenarios: Custodians could be reassigned to the front lines of the impending civil war; Custodians could desert posts to protect families as domestic turmoil continues; Custodians could defect to the rebel cause, transferring control over weapons stocks to the Free Syrian Army, with confused lines of authority and plans to manage such materials that are likely non-existent; Depending on the ebb and flow of battle, Assad could abandon the custodians if, for example, the sites fell within swaths of territory taken by rebel forces; Or, custodians could be overrun by rebel troops, if the Free Syria Army leaders sought to demonstrate, through capture of a site symbolizing Assad’s military strength, that the Syrian leader was losing his grip on power (…..)

  3. There’s no satisfying solution to the 16-month old Syrian bloodshed. To let Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crush popular demand for genuine political reform through brutal force, with support from Moscow and Beijing, would strengthen the hands of Russia and Iran. Saudi Arabian and Qatari weaponry, supplied to Sunni militants through Turkey, risks sectarian bloodbath not only in Syria but in Lebanon and Iraq as well as Bahrain and the Saudi kingdom’s Eastern Province, paving the way for Al Qaeda affiliates such as the Farouq Brigade to benefit from the power vacuum following Assad’s downfall. The inherent weakness of Syria’s present political order is obvious: Whereas the population is 70 percent Sunni, its military, police and intelligence services are led mainly by Alawis, a Shia sub-sect, as is the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party. Such disjunction also exists in Bahrain – a tiny group of islands in the Gulf with the main island linked by a causeway to predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia – with the roles reversed. The Shia factor underwrites the alliance Syria has forged with predominantly Shia Iran, since the latter’s establishment of an Islamic republic, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, founded in 1982 with assistance of the Iranian ambassador in Damascus. Around the hard core of the Alawi support for the Assad regime are the Christians, 10 percent, and equally numerous Ismailis, Druzes and ethnic Kurds, who collectively fear the onset of a post-Assad regime dominated by militant Sunnis. According to the Vatican news agency Fides, Sunni fighters recently went from house to house in the Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan neighborhoods of Homs under their control, forcing Christians to flee. All told, 50,000 Christians have lost their homes in Homs, some by army shelling, but many more because of ongoing targeted assaults by Sunni extremists such as the Farouq Brigade, composed mainly of foreign jihadists who have poured into Syria. Among Syria’s immediate neighbors, Turkey has emerged as a leading opponent of the Assad regime for two reasons, one aired publicly and the other unspoken. As leaders of the governing Justice and Development Party in a secular, democratic Turkey, President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan were genuinely horrified by the Syrian Army’s use of heavy weapons against civilian targets. Left unmentioned so far is the low esteem in which the Turkish government and political establishment hold their own Alevi minority. Turkey’s Alevis, akin to the Alawis in Syria, form up to 15 percent of the population, and are victims of widespread discrimination. It’s therefore not surprising that Turkish leaders have allied with Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s Sunni rulers. Indeed the al Saud and al Thani ruling families belong to the ultra-orthodox puritanical Wahhabi sub-sect within Sunni Islam, founded by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab (1703-87) in central Arabia. In 1802 Wahhabi warriors attacked the shrine of Imam Hussein, martyred son of Imam Ali, founder of Shia Islam, in Karbala. Since then Wahhabi preachers have continued to regard Shias as almost heretical. Wahhabis’ enmity toward Shias reemerged with the rise of Iran run by Shia mullahs since 1979. With increasing alarm, the Wahhabi House of Saud watched Iran extend its influence into the Arab world – in Syria and Lebanon, among the Palestinians through Hamas, topped by the emergence of a Shia-dominated government in Iraq, thanks to US military intervention against Sunni Saddam Hussein. Underscoring the anti-Assad alliance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey is the Sunni affiliation and a shared aim to frustrate Iran’s ambition to become the hegemonic power in the Persian Gulf region and end that influence in Syria and Lebanon. Their strategic goal coincides with Israel’s (…..)


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