By Andrei Ilyashenko
Faster-faster-faster-as fast as possible-still faster. The diplomatic maneuvers around Syria develop around the pattern described in the famous remark made by Schumann to one of his piano pieces.
Last Sunday the League of Arab States suggested sending peacekeeping forces to Syria, including the UN’s «blue beret» as well as military contingents of a number of Arab countries. Moscow and Beijing reacted quite rapidly.
«The Syrian issue is the internal issue of that country», said Dai Bingguo, a member of China’s State Council responsible for China’s foreign policy, in his telephone conversation with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that took place on Monday. It is a soft «no».
In his turn Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, in his speech on Monday at the plenary session of the UN General Assembly explained: “As far as the Arab League’s initiative to deploy in Syria joint peacekeeping mission of the League and the UN, it needs to be reviewed in detail. The deployment of the peacekeeping forces requires a consent from the receiving party”.
Meanwhile, Damascus almost immediately rejected the proposal that looked like an intervention under the UN auspices. And it gives Moscow and Beijing the right to once again veto any resolution that implies deployment of foreign armed forces in Syria. And without the approval of the UN Security Council all such actions would be illegal.
Such turn of events was quite expected, that is why the US announced a more realistic plan of action by the end of the day.
After the negotiations with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced to the journalists that the US and Turkey agreed to «intensify the diplomatic pressure» on Syria’s president Bashar al Assad’s regime. In particular, Clinton promised to tighten the sanctions against Syria as well as mobilize the world community’s support. Besides that, the Secretary of State warned that the US «will escalate its assistance to the opposition inside and outside of Syria».
The State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland explained this policy as follows: «Our efforts are now focused on supporting the opposition in its efforts to achieve peaceful political transition of power». However, it has little to do with peaceful political process. And it finally started to pick up speed.
New draft constitution of Syria will be put to a referendum vote by the end of February, announced the Syrian press on Monday citing Fayssal Mekdad, Syria’s Vice Minister of External Affairs. He also announced that parliamentary elections in Syria would be held in May with all political forces taking part.
Moscow in its turn counts on Syria’s authorities to provide for democratic elections in the country, said Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson. «We assume that the elections will be held in accordance with the planned schedule in a transparent manner in compliance with high democratic standards». In other words, Moscow wants foreign observers to give the elections legitimacy.
The idea offered by Russia’s Vice Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov seems to be more interesting. «Now the presidential elections in Syria are scheduled for 2014. Of course it is my personal view, but we could advise president al Assad to speed up the elections, but it has to be a decision made by the Syrians themselves», – he said in an interview to Echo of Moscow radio station. With that Bogdanov mentioned that presidential elections in Syria wherever they take place must be held according to new rules – now there must be alternative candidates, and the president can be elected for a maximum of two 7-year terms only.
There appears to be a number of alternative scenarios. It is either removal of al Assad by a «soft» forceful method. The consequences of that can be pretty gloomy. «There will be democracy in Syria in the event of al Assad’s removal», says president of the Institute of the Middle East Evgeniy Satanovsky in his interview too the Voice of Russia, – but it will be a democracy of the majority as a vehicle to suppress and kill ethnic and religious minorities. In the end it can lead to continuous civil conflict and disintegration of the country. Already now the opposition’s slogan is Christians – to Lebanon, Alawites – to the cemetery».
The second route is the political stabilization of the situation in the country via referendum and election process. This alternative is not only for the opposition mostly comprised of the Sunni that opposes the ruling Alawite elite, but also for numerous ethnic and religious groups populating Syria. And they understand that.