As a fragile ceasefire declared by Syrian President Bashar Assad goes into effect Friday, Arab media is skeptical that Assad will stick to his word.
“Assad and Annan face test at 6 a.m. and the world doubts,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The article displays an image from a demonstration in the city of Da’el, where a person holds up a hand-written sign reading “what does the world want from the Syrian people?”
The headline of London-based liberal daily Al-Hayat reads “The Syrian army announces an end to its operations today, amid international doubt.” The article features a photo of a little girl reading a book in the courtyard of her bombarded home in the town of Talbiseh.
Some Arab columnists turn their sights to Turkey, wondering how Syria’s northern neighbor, which has borne the main brunt of refugees, will act.
“For a year the question has been: when will Turkey set up a buffer zone in Syria?” writes A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor Tareq Al-Homayed. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had promised not to allow a massacre of Syrian civilians to reoccur, writes Al-Homayed, but so far Turkey has done nothing to act against Assad.
“Turkey does not need to intervene in the Syrian matter on its own. The Turkish fear of appearing as an aggressor in Syria is justified… what Turkey, and especially Mr. Erdogan, must do today is aspire to a coalition of the willing if the UN fails.”
Al-Hayat columnist Hassan Haidar explains why Turkey has so far refrained from intervening in Syria. He argues that establishing a buffer zone in Syria will bring Turkey into direct conflict with Syria, without the support of the UN Security Council.
“Imagine what will happen if the regular army really holds its fire and retreats to its barracks. Surely hundreds of thousands of Syrians will take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations demanding change,” writes Haidar on Friday. “Will the regime tolerate that? Will it allow protest to spread to Damascus, witnessing its own collapse? Of course not. Therefore, the ceasefire which Annan aspires to will not last long.”
“Turkey has considerations that eclipse Syria and include Iran and Russia, with which it wants to maintain ongoing relations despite recent tension … the continuation of hostilities [in Syria] may embarrass Ankara, a member of NATO, and harm the prestige of Turkish deterrence which succeeded in the past in breaking the Syrian support of Kurdish PKK rebels.”
Iranian President visits disputed Island, sparking Arab rage
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Persian Gulf Island of Abu-Moussa Wednesday, which Iran occupied from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1971. The provocative visit is receiving wide coverage (and condemnation) in Arab media Thursday.
“Emirates condemn Ahmadinejad’s provocative visit to the Island of Abu-Moussa,” reads the headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The daily quotes Emirati foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah Al-Nahyan as saying that the visit exposes the falsity of Iranian claims that it wishes to establish neighborly relations with Arab Gulf states.
Ahamadinejad’s visit violated an agreement with Gulf states not to undertake provocative action that may compromise negotiations over the future of the Islands, reports A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
Pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads with the Iranian side of the event, reporting that Ahmadinejad asserted the “Persian identity” of the Gulf in his speech at Abu-Moussa. Ahmadinejad criticized the hypocrisy of Gulf states which criticize the Iranian democracy while never conducting democratic elections in their own countries.
Sudan and South Sudan slip into war
The military clashes between Sudan and South Sudan following the South-Sudanese capture of the oil-rich town of Heglig, claimed by the north, is widely reported in Arab media Friday.
On Wednesday the UN Security Council called on both sides to put down their arms and negotiate a demarcation of the border between the two countries.
“Escalation between the two Sudans precedes slipping into war,” reads the headline of Al-Hayat, which reports that the African Union has demanded the South to withdraw “immediately” from Heglig.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that in reaction to the southern move, Sudan has withdrawn its negotiation team from Ethiopia and its parliament has ordered the military to prepare for war.
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