For Syrian regime, an apparent change of heart
Arabic media review

For Syrian regime, an apparent change of heart

Egyptian military spokesman bashes Muslim Brotherhood for provocative comments

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right), welcomes Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem (left), in Moscow, February 25, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right), welcomes Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem (left), in Moscow, February 25, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev)

A call by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem for dialogue with the rebels leads the news in major Arab language dailies on Tuesday, as the Syrian opposition coalition agrees to participate in a conference in Rome to support the opposition.

“Muallem calls for dialogue, and Lavrov fears the division of Syria,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. During a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, foreign minister Muallem said he is willing to engage in dialogue with the opposition, but stressed that the regime will continue to battle “terrorists” in the county.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed fear that fighting in Syria may lead to the country’s partition, the daily reports.

“Muallem is ready for dialogue with ‘those holding the weapons’ and Kerry supports a ‘peaceful solution,'” reads the headline of Al-Hayat, a London-based daily.

The daily claims that Muallem’s announcement on Monday is a strong negotiating tool delivered by Syria to Russia, one day ahead of a meeting between Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor Abdel Bari Atwan, commenting Tuesday on the meeting between Kerry and Lavrov, says that Muallem’s statement reflects a real understanding by the Syrian regime that military triumph over the rebels is no longer possible.

“Syria is crumbling, and is gradually becoming a failed state that will pose a threat to the entire region. This danger will continue either with or without the presence of the regime. It would not be exaggerated to say that the larger danger will be following the fall of the regime, if it falls,” writes Atwan.

“The Syrian regime, well-versed in the Iranian tactics of deception and maneuvering, will never accept a solution leading to Assad’s departure, especially considering that he survived these past two years. The opposition will understandably never accept a political solution leading to a transitional government led by the head of the Syrian regime,” writes Atwan.

Meanwhile, Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera reports that Moaz Al-Khatib has agreed to participate in the Friends of Syria conference in Rome after receiving reassurances from Secretary Kerry that the US intends to discuss practical policy initiatives, not simply statements.

“Now Assad is begging for dialogue,” reads the headline of an op-ed by Tareq Homayed, former editor-in-chief of A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

“In the past we wondered whether Moaz Al-Khatib is wise or a gambler. The events of today indicate that he was wise to involve the Assad regime in the trap of dialogue which it had rejected. Today, the Assad regime has come to beg for dialogue even with the armed opposition, and from Moscow.”

“The most important thing in Syria today is to continue arming the Free Syrian Army and begin planning for Syria’s formation after Assad,” adds Homayed. “This is a task for the Syrian opposition itself and not only the international community which must not waste more time and efforts in the so-called dialogue [with the regime], unless this is conditioned on the announcement of Assad’s departure.”

Egyptian army warns the Brotherhood

Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads its news with reports of a harsh warning directed at the Muslim Brotherhood party by an army spokesman, outraged at an accusation by a Brotherhood official who claimed the army itself was behind a terrorist attack in Rafah last August which took the lives of 16 Egyptian soldiers.

Army spokesman Ahmad Muhammad Ali wrote on his Facebook page Monday that the comments by Brotherhood official Ali Abdul Fattah are “rantings.”

Ali accused the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to achieve political gains at the expense of the military, demanding an official clarification and apology by the Muslim Brotherhood for Abdul Fattah’s statement.

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