Diplomatic meeting over Syria crisis to convene in Geneva
International envoy Kofi Annan’s Syria action group will meet today in preliminary discussions on the Syrian crisis. On Saturday, Annan, along with officials from a dozen countries, will discuss his plan for a Syrian-led unity government and attempt to revive his stalled six-point peace plan. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran, two regional powers who have ...
International envoy Kofi Annan’s Syria action group will meet today in preliminary discussions on the Syrian crisis. On Saturday, Annan, along with officials from a dozen countries, will discuss his plan for a Syrian-led unity government and attempt to revive his stalled six-point peace plan. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran, two regional powers who have been supporting the opposition and government, respectively, have been excluded from the meeting.
Annan’s unity plan will be Syrian-led, and permit some current regime loyalists to remain in power, though particular ones would be excluded. But the plan is nebulous regarding which specific regime figures, most notably Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, will be excluded. It will also call for multi-party elections and offer substantial international funding to rebuild Syria. American officials insist that Annan’s unity plan not allow Assad to remain in power. This call is reiterated by Syrian opposition groups, who have said Assad must abdicate and leave the country if they are to negotiate a political transition. According to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, Moscow will refuse to support a transition plan that would require Assad to relinquish power. "We will not support and cannot support any meddling from outside or any imposition of recipes. This also concerns the fate of the president of the country, Bashar al-Assad."
As Turkish-Syrian relations continue to deteriorate, the Syrian government has reportedly sent 170 tanks to the border shared by both countries. This move comes just a day after Turkey reinforced its border with air-defense weaponry. Meanwhile, Assad has reiterated his stance against the opposition, declaring to Iran’s state-run television station that he has "a responsibility to annihilate the terrorists." Although, a series of high-profile attacks against government installments by the rebels have helped to build the perception that they are making gains in their fight against Assad. According to local activists, as many as 190 Syrians were killed on Thursday, mainly in Douma, as shrouded corpses lined the streets.
- China and Singapore will be exempted from being levied financial penalties which are required under a new U.S. law on Iran sanctions. The law aims to greatly impeded Iran’s ability to export crude oil.
- On Saturday, President-elect Mohamed Morsi will take the oath of office in front of the High Constitutional Court. Meanwhile, thousands of Egyptians have gathered at Tahrir Square in anticipation of a speech that Morsi will deliver after Friday prayers.
- Egypt’s field marshal, Hussein Tantawi, will remain as the country’s defense minister in Morsi’s new cabinet.
- Libyans are marking the anniversary of a prison massacre 16 years ago in which 1,300 prisoners were shot after protesting for better conditions and more just trials.
Arguments & Analysis
‘The Three Pillars of Egypt‘ (Wadah Khanfar, The Guardian)
"Morsi being declared president means that the revolution now has three institutions: the presidency, the parliament and the square. Two of them, the parliament and the presidency, are consistent with the legitimacy of the democratic elections. As for the square, it has its own revolutionary legitimacy. The destiny of the three is intertwined."
‘The calm may not last forever‘ (The Economist)
"Five years after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, dismissed an elected government run by the Islamists of Hamas and decided to rule instead by decree, the Palestinian Authority (PA) that oversees the West Bank is being dangerously challenged from within. In Nablus, the first city where Mr Abbas chose to fill the security vacuum with his American-trained national-security battalions, turf wars have recently erupted between rival commanders, puncturing four years of calm. The walls of Jacob’s Well, a local church, a theatre and the UN office all bear the scars of recent shooting sprees. "It’s hell," says a social worker in Balata, the city’s largest refugee camp, which suffered grievously during two previous intifadas (uprisings), in 1987-93 and 2000-05. Now people are beginning gloomily to wonder whether there will be a third intifada, this time aimed at the PA as much as at the Israelis occupying the West Bank."
‘Forging a peace plan for Syria‘ (Kofi A. Annan, The Washington Post)
"There is no substitute for the hard work of helping the 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."
–By Jennifer Parker
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