Statements on Syria’s future, mostly emanating from the Middle East, feature prominently in the Arab press on Wednesday.
In an interview with the London-based daily Al-Hayat, Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr says the task force on Syria, also known as the Quartet (including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran) has agreed on the ‘certainty’ of regime change in Syria, but differences still exist on how to implement this change.
Amr adds that Assad will not be part of any future negotiations, noting that the United States has not provided any assistance on Quartet’s initiative.
Meanwhile, Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads its coverage on Syria with an implicit Iranian and Russian warning to the Syrian regime not to use chemical weapons. In a lecture in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that use of such weapons would mean that the Syrian regime has lost its legitimacy.
In a separate article, the daily describes Western — and especially French — hopes for a breakthrough in the Syrian stalemate through the “liberated areas” in Syria — areas taken from the regime’s grip in the country’s north and east, which encompass an estimated 1 million residents.
Brahimi was chosen for this mission, speculates Al-Hayat columnist Ghazi Dahman, due to his experience in finalizing the Taif agreement which ended the 15-year Lebanese civil war
Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera reports that international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi will return to Syria this week in an attempt to “reduce the level of fighting in preparation for political dialogue.”
Brahimi was chosen for this mission, speculates Al-Hayat columnist Ghazi Dahman, due to his experience in finalizing the Taif agreement which ended the 15-year Lebanese civil war with a political power sharing mechanism among the country’s sects. Dahman argues that Brahimi is planning a similar scheme for Syria, and is therefore trying to reach domestic agreement for negotiations.
“The two conditions of domestic agreement to negotiate and international accord were in place on the eve of the Taif convention, which Brahimi facilitated. It seems as though the man is trying to recreate the conditions of that agreement in the Syrian context so that the solution duplicates itself in this case,” writes Dahman.
Saudi-owned news site Elaph reports that three Hezbollah fighters, including a senior commander, Ali Hussein Nassif, were killed in clashes with the Syrian opposition near Homs.
According to the site, the men were buried “in utter secrecy” in the village of Buday in Lebanon’s Beqaa region.
Qatar opens representative office in Gaza, bypassing the PA
In a blow to the Palestinian Authority, Qatar has opened a representative office in Hamas-controlled Gaza without coordination with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports.
PA officials tell the daily that the Qatari move feeds the state of political divide between Gaza and the West Bank by entrenching Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip.
Qatari sources deny that the move had any political ramifications, arguing that the reopening of the Qatari embassy building in Gaza is merely intended to facilitate reconstruction projects which Qatar oversees in the Gaza Strip.
PA officials told the daily that the Qatari move feeds the state of political divide between Gaza and the West Bank by entrenching Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip
Al-Jazeera, the mouthpiece of the Qatari state, reports that Qatari representative Muhammad Amadi inaugurated projects Tuesday to reconstruct four main thoroughfares serving Gaza at a total cost of $148 million.
Amadi also signed the final paperwork calling for bids on a new hospital named after Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Hamad Al Thani and a residential complex including 1,000 housing units.
Amadi tells Al-Jazeera that the Qatari government will directly oversee the projects itself, in order to avoid working directly with the Hamas government in Gaza, which would cause friction with the PA.
Asked about how Qatar could attain the building materials needed for the project, Amadi says that the Qatari prime minister recently asked the Egyptians for permission to transfer building materials into the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians agreed to transfer the materials, he said.