Middle East


Viewpoints: Syria's Ongoing Violence

The Telegraph, Sept. 7: In defiance of demands for an end to the violence issued across the Middle East, Syrian security forces mounted a fresh operation in the restive central city of Homs. The latest bloodshed came amid growing evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s government was determined to bask in his country’s growing isolation. Nabil Elaraby, the secretary general of the Arab League, was forced to delay a peace mission to Damascus at the last moment after Syrian officials told him he would not be welcome. The snub followed a meeting between Elaraby and Syrian opposition officials that incensed the Assad government, Arab diplomats were quoted as saying. Elaraby had been due to present Arab demands for an end to state violence against protesters and an escalation in the pace of reform. He was also expected to propose an initiative to end the deadlock between the government and the opposition.

Arirang, Sept. 7: It's time to take action on the situation in Syria. These were the words of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday as he spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of Pacific leaders in New Zealand. Frustrated over the lack of unity among U.N. members in dealing with Syria's brutal crackdown on protesters Ban called on the international community to unite and take coherent measures once and for all. Ban condemned Assad for perpetrating violence against his own people, saying that the aspirations of the Syrian people should be "heeded and respected." He also added that it's "already to late" for Assad to correct his course as the more time passes by in Syria, more people will be killed. However, Ban stopped short of calling for military intervention saying it is not a matter the secretary-general should talk about.

Euronews, Sept. 3: The European Union has tightened its unilateral sanctions on Syria, although they do not go as far as last month’s investment ban imposed by the United States. The E.U. will buy no more Syrian oil, and the belief is more sanctions on banks, businesses and individuals will impose more restrictions on the country’s elite rather than on ordinary people. “Yesterday we adopted new restrictive measures targeted to try and deprive the regime of its financial revenues. The purpose of that is to put the economic pressure on to achieve the political outcome, which is to stop the bloodshed, and help the people of Syria to achieve their legitimate aspirations,” said the E.U.’s Foreign Affairs boss Dame Catherine Ashton. Russia’s foreign minister was quick to say sanctions would “bring no good”. Sergei Lavrov added both Russia and China remained opposed to any unilateral actions, although the international community and the U.N. appear ready to intervene more strongly faced with Bashar al-Assad’s continuing attacks on his own people.

Financial Times, Sept. 7: Syria is looking for new customers for its crude oil after the European Union imposed sanctions last week in response to a crackdown that has seen more than 2,000 people die in the past six months. … The approximately 150,000 barrels Syria exports per day are relatively few compared with other producers, but human rights activists say that the $16 million a day generated by these sales provide an economic lifeline to a regime which has seen other sources of foreign currency such as tourism slow to a trickle since anti-government protests erupted in March.

Khaleej Times, Sept. 7: Syria’s finance minister said economic growth in his country was expected to drop to around one percent because of unrest, and acknowledged E.U. sanctions could harm the economy. "Now, it will be around one percent, because of the events ... maybe between one to two percent," Minister Mohammad Jleilati told reporters on the sidelines of an Arab ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi when asked about economic growth. He said the Syrian economy grew 5.5 percent in 2010, and expected the gross domestic product to grow by around three percent next year. More than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since mass protests erupted across the country in March, according to U.N. figures.

CNN'S Global Public Square, Sept. 7: The U.N. Security Council would be unlikely to pass a resolution authorizing force. Russia, a veto-wielding member of the council, enjoys access to a Mediterranean naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus and is a major supplier of arms to the country. Russia has already lost $4 billion in foregone arms sales to Libya; no wonder Moscow is loath to see another customer vanish. Chinese arms sales to Syria have been equally buoyant, tripling between 2006 and 2009. More broadly, Syria lies at the heart of the Arab world. Although protests and regime violence have already destabilized the country and sent refugees northward to Turkey, outside intervention would have unpredictable consequences for neighbors Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon. Although Saudi Arabia has criticized Assad and withdrawn its ambassador, it’s unlikely that the Arab League would repeat its endorsement of a no-fly zone.

Xinhuanet.com, Sept. 7: China said on Wednesday that the Syrian crisis should be solved through dialogue and consultations instead of simply putting pressure on the country. "We think the first thing to do is to ease tensions in Syria in order to avoid escalation," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said during a regular press briefing. Jiang's comments came in response to a question regarding whether or not China will communicate with the Syrian opposition, as Russia has already received a delegation from the Syrian opposition.

Dawn.com, Sept. 7: Iran is taking advantage of chaos in Syria and Libya to boost efforts to build a nuclear weapon, a western envoy told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday. With international attention focused on the Middle East uprisings “Iran may believe it can profit from the situation,” France’s U.N. representative told a Security Council meeting on U.N. sanctions against Iran. “It is accelerating its efforts. It has increased the number of centrifuges and provocative statements. But we are not fooled by this,” deputy ambassador Martin Briens told the council, highlighting western demands for the tougher application of sanctions. … Iran denies Western allegations that it seeks a nuclear bomb. But the U.N. Security Council has passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran’s uranium enrichment. France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week he would seek international support for even tougher measures.