Posted 05.04.2012 13:31:30 UTC
Updated 05.04.2012 13:39:17 UTC
Dr. Serhat Erkmen
Many talks were held this week but in this edition of our program we are going to take up the Arab League Summit held in Baghdad and a Friends of Syria meeting held in İstanbul.
The meeting held in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on March 27, 28 and 29 was a historical one. Iraq last hosted an Arab League summit 22 years ago, therefore, this meeting considered as the most significant symbol of return to the Arab world from the standpoint of the Baghdad government, was overshadowed by a protest .The meeting in which only 10 of 22 states were represented at presidential level, once indicated that many Arab states have doubts about the Baghdad government.
Syria was the most important item on the agenda of the meeting. The Arab League called on Syria to immediately implement a U.N. plan that the Syrian administration accepted.
The Arab League that pursued a tougher policy on Syria at previous meetings has softened its stance this time. However this change is closely connected to a change in the term presidency and Assad administration accepting the Annan plan. At this point it can be envisaged that Iraq will slow down its activities within the Arab League regarding Syria and this seems an important advantage for the Syrian administration that thinks that it will stay in power by gaining time.
On the other hand, Iraq having replaced Qatar that has played a significant role as the term president during the most active days of the Arab Spring, does not seem a simple change of duty. The Arab League led by two countries that pursue contrary policies regarding Syria, can become a stage for internal conflicts in the forthcoming term because the Arab League that took the Syrian crisis to the international agenda and followed an active diplomacy in the past few months, this time, Maliki is against a change in the Syrian regime and support provided for the Syrian opposition. Lebanon and Iraq are countries that have rejected Arab League's policies on Syria the most. Serious political tensions are also in question between Qatar and Iraq .Iraq believes that Qatar accuses Sunni Arabs of creating tensions in its country and Syria by supporting the opposition and Qatar believes that Iraq divides Arabs and serves Iran. Rumors behind diplomatic scenes support this view. Most experts on the Middle East share this view too. Qatar was among countries that were not represented at high level at the meeting in Baghdad. What brought to light the issue between the two countries was Tarıq Hashimi's official visit to Qatar 3 days after the Arab League meeting was concluded. Hashimi for whom an arrest warrant was released in December, has been living in northern Iraq since then. Thus the Hashimi crisis between Iraqi Kurds and Maliki government in Baghdad, became an international one. Hashimi's visiting Qatar shortly after the Arab League Summit will escalate tensions between the two countries. This move will obviously draw the reaction of Iraqi Shiites. But it is too early to say what dimensions tensions will reach.
Two separate meetings were held in İstanbul on March 27 and April 1. The meeting aimed to bring the opposition under the roof of the Syrian National Council, attained its objective to a great extent on March 27.Most of opposition parties came under a single roof at the meeting. However, some changes are expected to be made in 3 weeks, in the Syrian National Council and administration. People who represented Kurdish parties in Syria rejected to join the Syrian National Council on the grounds that their demands were not taken into consideration.
The most important meeting in Turkey was held in İstanbul on April 1. More than 70 countries and many international organizations attended the second meeting of Friends of Syria. The final communiqué included critical items, the most important among which is item no 12 that says that Friends of Syria group will provide support for legitimate measures to be taken for Syrian people to protect themselves. This item can be said to signal military aid for
the opposition. Gulf countries said that they plan to provide support for the Free Syrian army by setting up a fund among themselves.
Discussions were held on Kofi Annan's plan at the meeting. Some countries said that Annan's plan had to have a time limitation whereas most of EU states rejected this. Time limitation for implementing the plan was not mentioned in the final communiqué but demand was made for a timetable including future steps. The last item in the 27 item communiqué was that the Syrian National Council was the legitimate representative of all Syrians and an organization bringing together the Syrian opposition under a single roof.
This meeting can be a significant watershed for the future of Syria but Assad administration continues to gain time as the international community that gives the Syrian opposition to unite, can not reach consensus within itself.