Syria conference in Paris to send 'clear message' for political transition |
Kuwait News Agency - 05 July, 2012
The international conference of the "Friends of Syria" which opens Friday in Paris aims to send a "clear message" on the need for political transition in that conflict-ridden country and reaffirm calls for the departure of embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, diplomats said here ahead of the gathering.
Over 100 countries and delegations from regional and international organisations are expected to attend, organisers said.
Kuwait is represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamed Al-Sabah, who also currently holds the rotating presidency of the Arab League, which broadly supports regime change in Syria.
The Kuwaiti official already attended the "crisis talks" held, on June 30, in Geneva to discuss the Syrian situation, but the outcome of that meeting is ambiguous as to the fate of Al-Assad.
Nonetheless, conference organisers in Paris maintain that a "reaffirmation" of the principles of the Geneva meeting of major powers, the Arab League and the UN in Switzerland, will be a key goal of the Paris meeting.
"Our reading" of the Geneva Declaration is that Al-Assad must leave, one diplomat said here, noting that there has been a significant evolution in the Russian position over the past several months, both in political and military circles.
Russia, and ally China, have been invited here Friday but are not expected to attend, sources remarked, although no response has been officially received from China.
Other objectives of the meeting here are to issue a strong message of support for the Syrian opposition groups and also to bolster humanitarian support for the beleaguered population. About 1.5 million Syrians are now estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid.
"Principal opposition parties" have been invited and have said they will attend, organisers and diplomats said, noting that there could be 50 representatives of opposition groups at the conference.
There will also be many militant youth representatives who will be given "a large space" to bear witness to the situation on the ground. The opposition figures will be coming from both inside and outside Syria.
The most prominent figure will be Syrian National Council (SNC) leader Abdulbasset Sayda, who has recently taken over the presidency of the SNC, but other non-aligned opposition groups will also take part.
In addition, there will be "a very strong participation" by Syrian civil society with associations representing doctors, artists, humanitarians and intellectuals attending.
This third "Friends of Syria" conference is being touted as a success, given the more than 100 delegations expected, which is higher than the 80 delegations that attended the second meeting in Istanbul April 1 and the meeting in Tunis in February, which brought 60 participants together.
The Paris event intends to ratchet up the "pressure" on Damascus to move towards change.
Concretely, however, there is no plan to take action to set up protected, humanitarian corridors for civilian refugees, a move that has been mooted for some time.
There will be a discussion on how to get "more means, more resources" for humanitarian aid and improve both external and internal delivery of relief for the civilian population.
One diplomat, in close contact with the situation on the ground, said that there were now areas where major military interventions by Syrian security forces were no longer taking place and "certain zones" have little or no security presence.
The massive operations that were previously taking place in Homs, Idlib, Jebel Zaouwi and even the Damascus suburbs are no longer taking place, he indicated.
In addition, there are on-going defections from the Syrian military and security forces, although it was stressed that it was difficult to say if these were "decisive." On Friday, half of the national delegations will be headed by Foreign Ministers and in some cases by Prime Ministers, organisers said. The remainder are sending senior officials.
US Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton will attend, as will British Foreign Secretary William Haig, who already met here Wednesday with French conference host, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. A large number of other Western nations have also indicated they will come.
In addition to Kuwait, Foreign Ministers or senior officials from many Arab and Gulf countries will be participating, including from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Morocco and also regional heavyweight, Turkey.