A statement by Russian President Vladimir Medvedev in which he calls ex-UN head Kofi Annan’s mission in Syria the regime’s “last chance” to avoid a prolonged civil war is making headlines in the Arab press Monday.
The Syrian government is unrelenting in its attacks against civilians, mainly in the cities of Homs and Idlib, where at least 50 people were killed on Sunday.
Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, published in London, conducts an exclusive interview with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood general guide Riyadh Shaqfeh, who conveys a conciliatory and moderate message to the readers. In a press conference in Istanbul Sunday, Shaqfeh said that Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood supports the establishment of a pluralistic democratic state in Syria, voicing no objection to a woman or Christian filling the role of president, as long as they win a popular vote. The question of who is worthy to be president in an Arab country is being hotly debated by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
“Syrian society was never sectarian,” Shaqfeh tells A-Sharq Al-Awsat Monday, pointing to the appointment of a former Christian prime minister in Syria, Fares Khouri.
The Brotherhood statement wins no fewer than two editorials in A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The daily’s editor, Tariq Homayed, writes that the Brotherhood’s position represents a revolution not only in Syria but in the Muslim Brotherhood as a pan-Arab organization.
“The Syrian Brotherhood has proven that it is different, just as they say that Syria is different… the Syrian Brotherhood document means that the state is the chief homeland, and there is no canceling of the state.”
Abd Al-Rahman Rashed, director of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel, writes in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the importance of the Brotherhood’s message lies in the fact that it alleviates public fears from the day after Bashar Assad.
“The leadership of the Brotherhood… decided to reveal its cards and commit to the world, and more importantly to the Syrian people, that it will accept a democratic and pluralistic society where all will be equal.”
But pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor Abd Al-Bari Atwan harshly criticizes the divided and quarrelsome Syrian opposition, penning an editorial Monday titled “a different Syrian opposition is needed.” Atwan argues that the Syrian opposition is mistakenly following the Libyan model which prefers international intervention to domestic reform.
“The problem lies in the makeup of this opposition, which includes non-Syrian elements,” writes Atwan.
Verbal exchange between Egypt’s army and Brotherhood
A war of words between the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s foremost political bloc, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the de facto ruler of the country, is the second top story in Arab news Monday.
“The honeymoon between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Military Council that rules Egypt is coming to an end,” writes liberal daily Al-Hayat.
The Muslim Brotherhood bashed the government of Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri for its shortcomings in managing recent crises in Egypt. The military, for its part, attacked the Brotherhood in a harshly worded statement published Sunday on its official Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Egyptian liberal parliament member Mustafa Najjar explains in a column in the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Youm why he decided to resign from the constitution’s draft committee, which was taken over Sunday by a 70% Muslim Brotherhood majority.
“My decision to withdraw… is a natural result of what the majority did. It crossed all boundaries of logic, mocked the national will, and insisted on dominating and imposing a fait accompli on the people,” Najjar writes.
Najjar, it seems, speaks on behalf of many liberals in Egypt who, dismayed at the rapid Islamist takeover of Egypt’s constitution drafting assembly, have been resigning in protest.
First Arab diplomat arrives at Baghdad summit
Nabil Al-Arabi, head of the Arab League, became the first Arab dignitary to arrive on Sunday in Baghdad for a historic Arab League summit, scheduled to take place on March 29.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat features Al-Arabi warmly shaking the hands of a smiling Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Al-Arabi tells Al-Hayat that one of the issues on the agenda will be clearing the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. Al-Arabi says that the mere execution of the summit in Baghdad is “an achievement.”
Surprisingly, Sudanese President Omar Bashir announced his participation in the summit Sunday, despite a pending arrest warrent against him at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Of course politicians can call the Baghdad summit an “Arab Spring Summit,” writes Jamil Dhiabi in a column in Al-Hayat Monday. “But… Do not think that the “Arab Spring” changed everything, for there are still those who are intransigent, ignoring reforms and using the excuse of conspiracies.”