A meeting of 11 foreign ministers in London Tuesday to pave the way for a summit to resolve the Syrian crisis leads the news in Arabic media Wednesday.
“The London meeting: Assad has no future in ruling Syria,” reads the headline in the London-based daily Al-Hayat, featuring a group photo of the ministers.
Ahmad Al-Jarba, head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, said that US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed yesterday to secure humanitarian passageways for civilians fleeing Assad forces in cities such as Al-Ghuta a-Sharqiya and Homs. He added that the Opposition Coalition opposes the participation of Iran in next month’s Geneva II summit, but will grudgingly accept an Iranian presence as part of the Syrian delegation to the talks.
“The ‘London 11′ meeting achieved half the mission; no role for Assad in the unity government,” reads the headline in the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, reporting that the ministerial meeting has succeeded in producing “a united position on the political process to resolve the Syrian crisis.”
The meeting failed to produce an agreement by the Opposition Coalition to participate in Geneva II, however, despite significant pressure exerted on it to do so.
“We would be risking our credibility if we succumbed to these [pressures],” Jarba said, according to the report.
Al-Jazeera, a Qatari news channel strongly supportive of the Syrian opposition, claims that the change in tone toward the future of Bashar Assad is probably the most significant point emerging from the London meeting.
“The [Opposition] Coalition conditions its participation in Geneva II on Assad’s ouster and Iran’s removal,” reads the headline in its online article.
But while all eyes are focused on the Syrian opposition, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi claims that it whether Assad himself is willing to come to the table has yet to be established.
“The Syrian regime is counting on weakening the positions of the grassroots opposition to Assad by openly supporting the positions of what it dubs ‘the licensed opposition.’”
“The world reads the differences within the Syrian opposition as fragmentation and does not understand that it is the result of severe hunger for democracy following a 50-year-long dictatorship. The world also views the apparent cohesion of the regime as though it is strength.”
Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed writes that although the Geneva II conference is “a diplomatic imperative” for Syrians and international players, it will change nothing.
“Both sides are still able and insistent on fighting. The issue of who rules Syria will not be decided through diplomatic conferences. The only one able to decide the matter is the fighters on the ground,” writes Rashed in an op-ed titled “Assad will be president for another 20 years.”
Less tolerant of the diplomatic maneuvers taking place in Europe is Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar. In an op-ed titled “Geneva II is not a Syrian need,” he writes that an international summit on Syria is only a means to achieve rapprochement between Russia and the US on other issues, such as Iran.
“It seems like the Geneva II conference to discuss a solution for the conflict in Syria is a Russian (Iranian)-American (Western) need much more than a need of the Syrian sides themselves.
“It seems like the diplomacy of preparing for this conference has brought about an American-Russian rapprochement surrounding an issue of contention between them, especially the Iranian nuclear issue. Meanwhile, both sides are underscoring their commitment to Israel’s strategic security interests.”
Saudi Arabia distances itself from the US
The lead headline of Al-Quds Al-Arabi on Wednesday deals with the chilling relations between Saudi Arabia and the US over the American floundering on Syria.
The paper quotes knowledgeable sources as saying that the Saudi chief of intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has notified European diplomats that Saudi Arabia will “significantly alter” its relations with the US due to American inaction on the Syrian front and its recent rapprochement with Iran.
“It was not immediately clear whether the statements attributed to Prince Bandar are completely endorsed by the Saudi regent, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz,” claims the article.
Saudi news website Elaph also deals with the unprecedentedly harsh Saudi statements toward America’s foreign policy. Following Bandar’s comments, prince Turki bin Faisal, another former intelligence chief, said that Obama’s policies on Syria are “lamentable.”
The United Stated, for its part, rushed to clarify that Saudi-US relations remain strong, Elaph reported.