By Konstantin Garibov
Syria has pledged to follow a peace plan drawn up by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The Syrian authorities say that they are ready to pass a decision on the withdrawal of troops from Syrian cities provided opposition forces follow the same pattern and put an end to armed resistance. A statement to that effect was made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem during talks in St.Petersburg.
The St.Petersburg meeting drew the line under Russia’s diplomatic efforts aimed to prevent the escalation of crisis in Syria. Moscow urged Damascus and the opposition to pull their forces out of Syrian cities simultaneously. Sergei Lavrov said after the meeting that he had received the assurances from his Syrian counterpart that the Russian peace initiative would be supported.
“The Syrian government is fully prepared for this. It said that the agreements on the simultaneous withdrawal of armed forces would be supported. However, all statements by the Syrian authorities to the effect that are ready to follow Kofi Annan’s plan should be backed by actions. We must see to it that the opposition is ready for this as well. The UN observer mission in Syria should draw up a corresponding plan and secure its implementation.”
Earlier this week Moscow expressed readiness to back a plan to increase the number of UN observers in Syria, if needed. However, while Russia means none other than observers, Deputy Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed bin Helly believes that the observer mission should be replaced with a peacekeeper mission. Meanwhile, a UN mandate for the deployment of “blue helmets” can be issued only with the consent of Damascus. Vladimir Sotnikov, an analyst with the Center for International Security of the Institute of Global Economy and International Relations, comments.
“The Arab League is thereby trying to reserve the option of resolving the Syrian crisis by force. It hopes to use UN peacekeepers as a foreign military force. If this option proves viable, a number of AL countries might opt for attracting forces other than UN military peacekeepers. They might choose to bring in troops from countries of the region, or attract forces from countries that are interested in changing the current regime in Syria.”
According to the AL’s Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed bin Helly, the world community doesn’t want a repetition of the “Libyan scenario” in Syria. Some observers report a split in the AL’s ranks. Boris Dolgov of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, comments.
“The Arab League is divided on Syria. A number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have long been pushing for a military intervention in Syria. There have been a number of attempts to secure the approval of the AL to do this. But not all AL members unconditionally support the Syrian opposition. Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon, and some political groups in Jordan are sided with the Syrian government.”
Israel has been more than concerned about the attempts by a number of Middle Eastern monarchies to ramp up efforts to secure the overthrow of President Bashar Assad’s government. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that a change of government will not resolve the Syrian crisis. According to Israel’s Information Minister Yuli Edelstein, his country has no illusions that once the Assad regime is gone, liberal forces will come to power and carry out democratic reforms. Sergei Demidenko, an Oriental studies expert with the Institute of Strategic Evaluation and Analysis, comments.
“Israel is the last country which would be interested in a change of regime in Syria. Israel’s special services and diplomatic and political circles are fully aware who might come to power in Syria. These forces – the Islamists – might come to power or gain considerable influence which would enable them to use force or carry out propaganda campaigns against Israel.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Israel on June 25th . The Arab Spring and the situation in Syria will be on the agenda of the talks. Given that both Russia and Israel are vitally interested in peace in the Middle East, they will spare no efforts to consolidate their resources in achieving this goal.