Syria talks as Cairo erupts into flames
Arabic media review

Syria talks as Cairo erupts into flames

British minister says Iran's absence from Switzerland saved diplomatic talks on Syria's future

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

An Egyptian firefighter checks a crater made by a blast at the Egyptian police headquarters in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
An Egyptian firefighter checks a crater made by a blast at the Egyptian police headquarters in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

As diplomatic talks on the future of Syria resume in Geneva, Switzerland, Egypt marks the third anniversary of its revolution — two issues highlighted by Arabic media on Friday.

Looking to the day after Bashar Assad’s departure, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya that the international community will protect the Alawite minority in Syria, closely associated with the Assad dynasty.

Saudi news website Elaph reports that UN Special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi will meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and Syrian National Coalition head Ahmad Al-Jarba in two separate halls. Ahead of the meeting, Jarba told journalists that Russia is not insistent that Assad remains in power.

Meanwhile, Saudi daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat interviews British Minister of State at the Foreign Office Hugh Robertson, who told the newspaper that the Assad regime cannot win the civil war on the battlefield. Robertson added that Iran’s absence from the talks has contributed to their success so far.

“It is essential that the concerned parties reach a certain level of agreement before it is useful to invite them [the Iranians],” Robertson said.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Samir Atallah points to the detachment of the deliberations in Geneva from the reality on the ground in Syria.

“I don’t know why the most shocking conflicts are always discussed in the most quiet cities. Imagine the sense of alienation experienced by those coming from Damascus in Montreux or Geneva. They [the Syrian opposition] are fighting the third term of their president in a country whose president is elected every year,” writes Atallah.

“Today is seems as though the solution in Palestine is closer than that of Syria. The Arab sits across from the Israeli and negotiates with him, while the Syrians are negotiating from behind the wall. These are not bad times, but very sad times,” he adds.

But Al-Hayat columnist Raghda Dargham views the Geneva talks more positively, claiming that the Iranian-Russian-Chinese axis has lost ground already.

“What took place in Montreux is an accomplishment which should be built upon sensibly and prudently, without gloating. It is most important to focus on the forest and not only the tree, because Syria’s future is the forest with many dense and difficult trees,” writes Dargham.

Al-Arabiya features on its website the shaky amateur-looking video of a Syrian journalist named Rami Jarah chasing after Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoabi in Geneva. Jarah repeats the same question 16 times: Who is fighting [al-Qaeda affiliate] Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant? Assad is not bombing the ISIL headquarters in Raqa! Why are you bombing the people instead of bombing ISIL?”

Car bomb in Cairo

The explosion of a car bomb in Cairo Friday (and two more explosions in other Egyptian cities) coincides with a particularly somber third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.

Pro-Brotherhood news channel Al-Jazeera grants wide coverage to the anti-government demonstrations taking place on “Friday of defiance.” The channel quotes protesters in various provinces across the country chanting slogans against “the bloody military coup.”

But pro-government daily Al-Masry Al-Youm views the occasion very differently. “Egypt celebrates breaking the wall of fear,” reads its headline on Friday.

Meanwhile, the ominous sense that Egypt is quickly turning into a police state is reflected in the headline of an article in official daily Al-Ahram titled “Police casualties from the British occupation to the Brotherhood terrorism.”

“The police was, and still is, the internal line of defense for the state; thwarting terrorist attacks against it over the decades,” reads the article.

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