Ban Ki-Moon calls for Syrian sides to end violence
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has demanded that the government and the armed opposition in Syria unconditionally stop fighting and begin a dialogue on the settlement of the conflict that has lasted for about one and a half years.
"The talks should continue, but the warring parties must cease violence unconditionally and begin a dialogue as soon as possible," he said at a news conference at UN headquarters.
Attempts are being undertaken to establish a dialogue in Syria by Special Representative of the UN and the Arab League Lakhdar Brahimi.
Recently, he held talks in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad and the opposition.
It is expected that on September 24th Brahimi will address the UN General Assembly with the results of his work before the heads of states and governments of more than 120 countries.
According to the UN Secretary General the Syrians are in dire need of humanitarian assistance with the number of refugees already having reached 300,000.
An armed confrontation between the authorities and anti-government forces in Syria has continueв since March 2011, as a result, according to UN reports, over 20,000 people have been killed.
The Friends of Syria: whose foes are they?
The Friends of Syria group met in the Netherlands Thursday. This group of countries and bodies supports Syria’s opposition in its struggle to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The session was held amid an escalating conflict in the country and a new UN envoy for Syria, ex-Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Lakhdar Brahimi, taking his office.
The Friends of Syria was initiated by the then France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy who openly spoke about his intention to apply the Libyan scenario to Damascus. Before striking Libya, NATO gathered a collation of countries and organizations to ensure support of its actions. Then, France, the UK and the US were strongly backed by the Arab League, mainly Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Those who masterminded the operation knew that if it had been initiated by the Arab countries, this would have sparked a conflict between the West and the Muslim world.
The Administration of Barack Obama contrasted to George W.Bush is pursuing a more exquisite foreign policy. It keeps emphasizing that after withdrawing its troops from Iraq, all it cares about is Afghanistan. In other hot spots, like Libya or Syria, the US prefers to operate through its allies, mainly, France, the UK or the Arab League, being behind the operation.
This worked in Libya and could well work with Syria but it’s more complicated to ground a military interference in Damascus than in Libya back in 2011. This time there is no UN Security Council resolution which has at least an understatement allowing an operation. In case of Libya it was a no-fly zone imposed by the UN but this time Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution against Syria. So, a stake was put at creating a broad though quite vague coalition of countries, activists and bodies to internationally legitimize pressure put on Damascus.
Recently, Syria has attempted to reinforce ties with other international unions, less broad but more diverse. In the run-up to the Netherlands meeting, a contact group on Syria met in Cairo. It features Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey which treat Assad’s regime differently and are all key players in the region.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi proposed to send the group’s own observers seeking peaceful resolution of the conflict without a foreign intervention.
It was quite timely, as in August, the UN and the West decided to withdraw its observers from Syria.
However, the West obviously will do its best to prevent the countries, which it doesn’t control, from monitoring the situation in Syria.
As some UN leaks say, delegates from the West were the ones skeptical about the necessity of a UN envoy at all.
This means that Washington wants the envoy to have no influence on military and political issues in Syria giving the US and NATO a carte blanche.
So, the West claims that all it wants is to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and enhance democracy there, but the very nature of the anti-Assad coalition makes doubt these good intentions.