Syrian regime to be judged by its deeds, ‘Friends’ warn
İpek Yezdani / Sevil Küçükkoşum ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (C) gestures as he speaks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while diplomats and world leaders, including Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi (L) and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (second L) watch them during the ‘Friends of the Syrian People’ summit held in Istanbul yesterday. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELThe Friends of the Syrian People group recognized the opposition Syrian National Council Sunday as a “legitimate representative” of all Syrians, calling on U.N. envoy Kofi Annan to set up a timetable for his mission while urging the international community to act swiftly to end the bloodshed in Syria. It also urged the imposition of more sanctions against defiant Bashar al-Assad regime, as the newly-established Sanctions Working Group will meet in Paris within weeks.
“The [Syrian] regime will be judged by its deeds rather than its promises. The window of opportunity for the regime to implement its commitments to Joint Special Envoy Annan is not open-ended. The Friends’ Group called upon the Joint Special Envoy to determine a timeline for next steps, including a return to the UN Security Council, if the killing continues,” read a joint communiqué released after the second gathering of the group that brought 83 countries around a table to discuss the crisi in Syria.
The Friends’ group met just a day before Annan is scheduled to brief the United Nations Security Council, after al-Assad said he accepted the U.N. envoy’s six-point plan to resolve the crisis. The final statement said that despite al-Assad’s acceptance, the regime’s violence has not ceased, a development that hurts hopes for a settlement.
The Hürriyet Daily News has learned that Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi has asked the group to apply to the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution for ceasefire under Chapter 7, and set up a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire, in case Annan’s plan fails. Resolutions under Chapter 7 envisage an international military intervention under certain circumstances.
“We are looking at actions rather than words. We are waiting excitedly and carefully for Kofi Annan to submit his report to the U.N. Security Council,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters at a press conference after the meeting, adding the international community will not allow al-Assad to “misuse another opportunity.” He also emphasized that the international community will firmly continue to press for a solution in Syria and said “We have always been with the Syrian people and we will continue to be with them until the Friends of the Syrian People group convenes in Damascus, in a democratic Syria.”
One of the most important consequences of the meeting was the recognition of the Syrian National Council (SNC) as a legitimate representative and leading interlocutor of the opposition with the international community. Although France and Turkey urged that the Syrian National Council should be recognized as “a legitimate representative body of the Syrian people,” there was an absence of consensus on the idea, since some countries objected that it would require cutting diplomatic ties with the al-Assad regime and closing dialogue with the administration, diplomatic sources told the Daily News.
“We wanted to create a balanced wording, so the SNC is described as a ‘legitimate leading interlocutor’ in the final statement,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told to journalists after the meeting.
Appreciating the SNC for declaring its National Covenant, a visionary document depicting how a new Syria could look, the declaration urged that in the political transition “it is essential that Syrian institutions be preserved and reformed.” “The new Syria will be a constitutional democracy where the rule of law is upheld and all citizens are equal before law,” it reads.
The group also called on those serving in Syria’s armed forces, security agencies and other government offices not to obey unlawful orders targeting the Syrian people.
Sanctions Working Group in France
“The group decided to set up a Sanctions Working Group, in order to achieve greater effectiveness in the enforcement of the restrictive measures already put in force by states or international organizations including the measures stipulated in the chairman’s conclusions of the first meeting of the Friends’ Group,” the statement said.
Juppe said “France will chair the first meeting of the working group and the coordination group for the implementation of sanctions will meet in Paris in two weeks’ time.”
Support for Syrian population’s self defense
Expressing its support for legitimate measures taken by the Syrian population to protect themselves, the statement also agreed to develop a multilateral initiative to support international and Syrian efforts to document, analyze, and store evidence of serious violations of human rights in order to deter such conduct and lay the foundation for future accountability.
Western powers reluctant to arm rebels
Arming the Syrian rebels and urging U.N.-Arab League Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan to produce a “timeline for next steps” if the Syrian regime fails to stop the bloodshed in line with the peace plan were hot debated in the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul yesterday. Syrian National Council President Burhan Ghalioun asked the conference to support arming the rebels.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar endorsed arming the opposition, while western powers such the U.S. were opposed, for fear of putting weapons in Islamist militants’ hands and fuelling a civil war in Syria.
“Establising a safe haven, military intervention, humanitarian corridor and arming rebels were hot potatoes in discussion,” Moulham Droubi, a member of the SNC representing the Muslim Brotherhood told the Daily News yesterday. “But we believe decisions for those further actions to be taken at the upcoming Friends of Syria meeting in France,” he added.
Recovery and development for Syria
Another working group on econmomic recovery and development for Syria was also formed at the meeting. It will work closely with designated members of the opposition and will be co-chaired by Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from the needs of the Syrian people, the statement also touched on the negative impact of the turmoil on countries in the region, including Turkey, whose transportation sector has been seriously hurt. “The group recognizes these difficulties and agreed to take all necessary measures to minimize the negative effects in neighboring countries and to facilitate alternative routes,” the statement read.
“The Friends’ Group reiterated its commitment to provide support and assistance to the neighbors of Syria and others in handling the repercussions of the crisis,” said the statement, obviously referring to nearly 20,000 Syrian migrants who have fled Turkey. Turkey says hosting the migrants has cost nearly $100 million dollars in the last nine months.
You can read the full communique here.