Egypt hosts 1st regional meeting on Syria crisis

Egypt hosts 1st regional meeting on Syria crisis

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Egypt hosts 1st regional meeting on Syria crisis

The Mideast’s traditional heavyweight Egypt is seeking to re-enter the regional politics, particularly on the Syria crisis, under the leadership of Islamist President Morsi. AP photo

Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt met in Cairo yesterday to find a common way to end violence in Syria, in a first, purely regional attempt at dealing with the deteriorating situation since the revolt begun in March 2011 as the details of the Egyptian plan began to emerge. 

Turkey’s former ambassador to Damascus, Ömer Önhon, joined the four-way contact group meeting in Cairo, the Hürriyet Daily News learned from a diplomatic source. Delegations from Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia met “in a bid to confront the deteriorating situation in Syria and put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and an end to the bloodshed through a political process,” the Egyptian ministry said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We have already agreed to take part in this process. Turkey joins any initiative seeking to end the bloodshed in Syria,” a Turkish diplomatic source told the Daily News yesterday.

Turkish and Egyptian foreign ministers, Ahmet Davutoğlu and Mohamed Kamal Amr, have been in close contact since Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced his four-way plan to solve the Syrian problem last month. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Morsi will meet in New York during the U.N. General Assembly. 

Yesterday’s meeting was considered to be a preparatory meeting in which four parties had hoped to outline their own positions with regard to future phases of the Egyptian initiative. It was not known whether they would agree on the context of the proposal’s future steps when the Daily News went to print.

Morsi plan is comprehensive 

According to the information the Daily News gathered, Egypt’s plan, which comes after the collapse of U.N.-based international efforts, is firstly aiming at bringing the issue to the place where it belongs: the region. The main message attributed to Morsi’s initiative was fear that if the regional players around Syria could not solve the problem on their own, other international powers would impose their own solution. 

The composition of the initiative, which is seeks to bring Iranian and Saudi Arabians to the same table with Turkey and Egypt, is also identical. It sees Iran’s participation in the process as a must, acknowledging its influence on Syrian administration as well as on the Hezbollah. 

Details from the plan

At the outset, Morsi’s plan is aimed at bringing in sight a political solution to the Syrian crisis so that each and every regional and international player can be convinced a solution is possible. Here are some important pillars of the plan: 

Safe exit: Giving assurances to Bashar al-Assad that a safe exit for him and his family will be provided has been included in the plan in line with the Arab League’s earlier proposals. The Syrian opposition has already rejected the idea, but the plan is prioritizes ending the bloodshed immediately over satisfying all parties involved. A four-way agreement endorsed by the international community would also put further pressure on al-Assad to accept the proposal for a safe exit. 

End violence: A potential agreement will seek an immediate cease fire and end violence as the delay in finding solution will not only bring more casualties, but will make the situation in Syria not much different from the one in Afghanistan. Violence will cause more violence and will further delay the solution. 

Political mechanism: One of most concrete proposals is the establishment of a political mechanism to ensure the political transition in Syria. Given the fact that al-Assad can no longer rule the country, an acceptable figure representing Syria as a whole could lead the political mechanism that envisages elections and other democratic phases of the transition. This mechanism will surely aim to protect the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria. 

Humanitarian concerns: Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced inside the country while nearly 250,000 people have fled the country to neighboring countries. The agreement will also seek ways to best meet the humanitarian needs of suffering Syrians. 

International support: Though it’s a regional initiative, it will seek the support of the international community once an agreement is reached. Establishing monitoring groups as well as humanitarian assistance groups will require international backing. However, political backing from the U.N. Security Council is also essential.