As UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi warned that elections in Syria would destroy diplomatic negotiations on a peaceful resolution of the three-year civil war, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was lobbying in China for a transitional Syrian government “with full executive powers.”
Arab media on Friday leads with Syria. “Brahimi warns of presidential elections in Syria,” reads the headline of an article on al-Jazeera‘s Arabic front page.
“If elections take place, I believe that the entire opposition will probably no longer be interested in negotiating with the government,” Brahimi told the press following a UN Security Council session.
President Bashar Assad is believed to be pushing for elections in May or June in a bid to win another seven-year term in office, al-Jazeera reports.
Meanwhile, the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi leads its front page with an article claiming that some 3,000 Syria fighters belonging to jihadist opposition group the Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are holed up in the mountains in central Syria, imitating the experience of fighters in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.
An unnamed jihadist commander told the daily that the fighters fled to the mountains after being driven out of Syria’s northern and eastern provinces by the Free Syrian Army. They are now dispersed in the Bil’as mountains east of Hama.
The Saudi-owned daily a-Sharq al-Awsat dedicates two front-page articles to the Syrian issue.
The first focuses on a diplomatic visit by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz to Beijing, where he is featured shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Prince Salman called on China to cooperate on ending the Syrian crisis “to spare Syrian blood and establish a transitional governing body with full executive powers.” Salman also commended the Chinese for their position on the Palestinian issue.
In a separate article, the paper quotes the president of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, as saying that returning to Geneva for another round of talks with the Assad regime would be “a waste of time, giving the government license to continue killing civilians.” Instead, the Syrian opposition is focusing on securing humanitarian aid and military assistance to wage battles against the regime in the areas of Qalamoun and Damascus, opposition sources told a-Sharq al-Awsat.
Meanwhile, a-Sharq al-Awsat columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed lambastes those praising the Islamist al-Nusra Front for its decent treatment of 12 nuns kidnapped four months ago from the Christian town of Maaloula and released this week.
“We cannot say much about the regime of Bashar Assad, since those who kill 150,000 people cannot be blamed for other crimes. We accuse those who thanked and praised a criminal gang such as al-Nusra Front only because it is battling the Assad regime. They forget that it, like ISIL, is a branch of al-Qaeda, nothing but a terrorist organization that does not respect the humanity of the other.”