Monday, 19 December 2011

Syria Signs AL Protocol, Says It Is Pure National Decision

Al-Moallem: Signing Arab League Protocol a pure national decision based on interests of Syrian people
DAMASCUS- Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem said that Syria and the Arab League General Secretariat signed the protocol of the Arab League observer mission, affirming that the decision to sign it was purely Syrian and based on the interests of the Syrian people.
In a press conference held Monday al-Moallem said that Syria wouldn't have signed the protocol regardless of the circumstances if no amendments were made to it, stressing that the signing the protocol is the start of cooperation between Syria and the Arab League as Syria wants a political solution to resolve the situation as soon as possible with the participation of the AL and its observers.
"Syrian sovereignty was preserved in the heart of the protocol," the Minister said, affirming that coordination with the Syrian government will take place via a national committee that will send reports to both sides which will be discussed before taking any other action according to the protocol and the Syrian amendments.
He affirmed that Syria welcomes every sincere Arab effort to resolve the crisis, and that it will deal with the observer mission seriously, professionally and objectively, adding that the observers' mission will have a duration of one month that can be extended for one more month only with the consent of the two parties, and that the mission will be protected by the Syrian state and free to move.

The Minister pointed out that some Arab sides want to internationalize the crisis in Syria, noting that those who wants the interest of the Syrian people do not impose economic sanctions on them and seek internationalization.

"We don't fear internationalization as the West and some Arabs' intentions have been revealed and won't exceed the economic sanctions," he said, stressing that the Russian chance hasn't change and that coordination continues between Syria and Russia which advised signing the protocol, which Syria did.

Al-Moallem said that there is no communication with the Turkish side due to the Justice and Development Party's one-eyed views that led it to impose sanctions against Syria and embrace groups which don't want the interest of Syria.

"We want to come out of the crisis and build a safe and modern Syria that is an example in democracy and plurality and all contributions are welcome," he said, stressing that the political solution is based on national dialogue and national reconciliation, but some of the opposition abroad reject dialogue.
"What encouraged us to make the decision to sign was the phone call from AL General Secretary Nabil al-Arabi yesterday morning, during which I felt that the man is sincere and wants to discuss and coordinate with us and contribute to a political solution for the crisis… I relayed this to the President and the leadership… this is what encouraged us, regardless of a word here and there," al-Moallem said.

He pointed out that Syria maintained correspondence with the Arab League since November 16 when the draft protocol was sent, with Syria expressing desire to add amendments to it which were met by the rejection of any amendment, causing Syria to consider it a submission protocol.
Al-Moallem went on to say that correspondence and rejection continued while the Arab Ministerial Committee convened and issued ultimatums, while Syria continued to say that it cannot sign the protocol unless amendments were made to protect national sovereignty.
"We and the AL Secretary General relied on a mutual friend who was a legal expert and the Secretary General agreed on making some amendments on the text of Protocol's draft in which we sensed keenness on our national sovereignty and coordination of the mission's work with the government," he said, adding that the two sides agreed on several Syrian additions, and based on that the Arab Ministerial Committee met in Doha to approve the amendments.
"During the meeting, the Secretary General called me and said that the committee agreed to all the amendments except for a word they want to add, and I said that this isn't a matter of a word but rather intentions… he responded by saying that if the protocol isn't side and if we don't agree to add the word then the situation will become grave, so I told him that whether or not we sign the protocol then we will go to the Security Council in a month or two, so I refuse to add any word and what interests me is intentions," the Minister said.
He pointed out that after an hour, the Secretary General called and asked if the refusal is a final decision which al-Moallem confirmed, following which the Ministerial Committee issued a statement which was bad and not based on facts, but rather viewed matters from a single point of view, adding "afterwards a press conference was held in Doha on behalf of the Ministerial Committee which contained threats, justifications and contradictions."

The Minister said that the statement said that the dispute was over a single word which was incorrect as Syria had some misgivings about some Arab sides' interests which were made apparent in the press conference, stressing that the Syrian people do not accept submission and those who study Syria's modern history know how the Syrians dealt with Gouraud's ultimatum.

He pointed out that the conference accused Syria of stalling, noting that when they knew that Syria doesn't accept submission when said that the protocol cannot be amended, stressing that if they had been serious and didn't want to waste time then they would have accepted our suggestion to send a legal delegation to study the protocol with Syria which they did only recently and after a personal initiative from the Secretary General, an effort which took two days.

"So, we're not the ones responsible for wasting time… we don't want that, rather we seek the solution," al-Moallem said, explaining that they said that if Syria didn't sign then they would go to the Security Council and called for doing that in an upcoming meeting, adding "at least in the security Council there are international sides which we can hold dialogue with."

He said that what happened has no justification, and that it exposed the intentions of some Arab sides who showed premeditated intents to go to the Security Council, noting that this confirms what he said in previous conferences.
On whether the AL sanctions will be lifted after signing the protocol, the Minister said "the sanctions are supposed to be lifted, but we leave it to them and their keenness on the Syria people if they're honest, because they're the ones who imposed it. 
Syria, Arab League sign observer mission protocol
Syria, Arab League sign observer mission protocol
Regarding whether the AL General Secretary will exceed the role of coordinator for the Ministerial Committee, al-Moallem said "I believe so… his conversation with me reassured me so I don't want to build upon what happened in the past.

In response on how the protocol preserves Syrian sovereignty and allows Syria to establish security, the Minister said that sovereignty is protected by the protocol's text and coordination with the Syrian government, in addition to Article 8 of the Arab League charter.
On the Russian draft resolution presented to the Security Council, he said that there's daily coordination with Russia whose stance hasn't changed.
Regarding the continuing media instigation and malicious intents towards Syria, al-Moallem said that media instigation is part of the plan and that it's a separate matter from the protocol which is meant to observe the situation in Syria, adding "there are many countries in the world that don't want to acknowledge the existence of armed terrorist groups… they will come and see that there are armed terrorist groups wreaking havoc in Syria, destroying gas and oil pipelines, attacking public and private establishments, in addition to abduction and murder. 
"All of this they will witness with their own eyes, so we must never be afraid. It's important to me that no-one – whether Arab or foreign – ignores that Syria has national sovereignty," al-Moallem elaborated, stressing that the Syrian government is committed to the security and freedom of its people and to building a better Syria. 
On whether there's a connection between signing the protocol and the Iraqi initiative, the Minister stressed that the signing is purely a national decision, and that other initiatives that can help resolve the issue are welcome as are sincere Arab efforts.
Regarding reports on the presence of Libyan combatants in Syria who entered through Turkey, al-Moallem said that this is an issue for the military command.

To those who said that Syria signed the protocol to buy time and drown Arabs in details, he said that the protocol is limited to one month that can be extended to one more month, stressing that no one can be drowned by details.
On the Syrian leadership stance for the next stage, al-Moallem affirmed commitment to ending the current situation as soon as possible, noting that he's not in a position to set a schedule.
"We’re facing pressure and economic sanctions, but I'm positive that we'll emerge better to build modern Syria. Those who wish to participate in that are welcome, and we must move beyond the stage of doubts to the stage of certainty. The Syrian leadership can only be with the Syrian people and it always makes the choice that preserves and protects their interests," he added.
The Minister stressed that there is no change in Russia's position, noting that Russia doesn't base its stances on sentiments but rather on meticulous study of its interests and stability in the region, adding "as for the Russian draft resolution, there's another arrangement regarding it which I can't disclose."

On whether the coming days will see visits by Arab envoys to Syria, he affirmed that Syria is open to whoever wants to come, saying "as for the AL delegation, they are coming to their second country… we will host and welcome them."
On Syrian-Turkish relations, al-Moallem said "the economic measures taken by our side came in response to the Turkish sanctions and the whole situation is temporary," he said, stressing keenness on the relations with the neighboring and friendly Turkish people.
Al-Moallem added "over ten years, we worked hard to establish the best relations with Turkey and they damaged them… the Adana agreement is still in effect because of our keenness on preserving the Turkish people's blood… but we will defend our people."
The Minister congratulated the Iraqi people for the exiting of the US forces from their lands, lauding the Iraqi stances and noting that the visit of Iraqi envoys isn't related to the Arab Work Plan or the protocol.
In response to a question, al-Moallem said that 70% of the Syrian amendments to the protocol were approved.

Regarding the observer mission, he stressed that the mission will be free to go wherever they want and that the government will only inform them if an area is safe or not, and it's up to them whether they take a risk, affirming that their safety is guaranteed and that Syria won't allow a single drop of their blood to be shed.

He added that the security solution relies on the armed terrorists ceasing their acts of murder and abduction, while the political solution is based on national dialogue and reconciliation and is open to all national groups who are keen on Syria and its future and aren't aligned to foreign agendas, reiterating that some opposition figures abroad reject dialogue.
On the possibility of the mission being attacked by terrorists in hotspots, al-Moallem stressed that this wouldn't embarrass Syria but rather side, and that it would lend credibility to the fact that there are armed terrorist groups that nobody want to acknowledge.

Regarding the possibility of changes in some sides' stances after signing the protocol, the Minister said "I can't answer about the intents or stances of others, but there are those who say that Syria fears the presence of observers and doesn’t want anyone to know what is happening, and there are those who say that there are no armed terrorist group and many things… so, the presence of the mission is a chance for them to see how the situation really is."

Al-Moallem dismissed the possibility that the recent Saudi-Iranian meeting has any ramification on the situation in Syria, saying that this meeting probably discussed bilateral issues of concern to the two countries alone.

Regarding Syria allowing foreign journalists to cover the events in Syria after the distortion committed by the US channel ABC of their interview with President Bashar al-Assad, he said that on a matter of principles, journalists will be allowed to enter with the hope that that they will serve their honorable profession with objectivity.
On Syria's stance towards Arab intentions, the Minister noted that not all Arabs have the same intention and that the mission will include representatives of all Arab countries, and that it will conduct itself with professionalism, adding "what concerns us is that the mission will witness and relay the reality of what is happening… we're also interested in journalists relaying what is happening objectively, which some of them did… maybe they will do a good job instead of the lies of eyewitnesses we see."
Regarding the possibility of the Arab League reconsidering sanctions and the suspension of Syria's membership after signing the protocol, al-Moallem said that Syria wrote to the AL several times on this matter and received no response, saying "we don't entreat anyone… if they think that their sanctions will affect the steadfastness of the Syrian people then they are delusional… they imposed the sanctions and they will lift, and we won't ask for it again."
He pointed out that the Syrian coordination committee is formed through Syrian decision and that it will contain legal, security and military experts tasked with coordinating work with the mission on daily basis, and that it has no other function at all.
On whether the AL is now a partner in resolving the Syrian crisis, the Minister said "I wish that this is the situation and that they would help resolve the Syrian crisis rather than be a burden on it."
Regarding rumors that the protocol allows opposition figures to accompany the mission, he said that the draft contained no such article; rather it permits the mission to contact any opposition figure they want, adding that those who accompany the mission will be the protection provided by the Ministry of Interior.
On the AL sponsoring national dialogue in Damascus or Cairo, al-Moallem said that the protocol stipulates carrying out the first article of the Arab Work Plan, and that questions about the AL efforts should be directed to the League itself.
Regarding the controversy over the footage displayed in his previous press conference, the Minister said that the footage was genuine but wasn't presented well, stressing that what the media said about it isn't true, adding "if we wanted to show the full reality of the heinous acts committed by armed terrorist groups, many of you would faint."
Syrian opposition: Arab League signing a "stall tactic"

Published Monday, December 19, 2011

An opposition group affiliated with the Syrian National Council (SNC) dismissed the Syrian regime's signing of the Arab League protocol on Monday as a "stall tactic."
Rafif Jouejati, spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), doubted President Bashar Assad's sincerity in signing the deal, noting that Assad sent his deputy foreign minister to sign the deal.

"It's another stall tactic for Assad. The fact that he couldn't sign it himself and sent his deputy foreign minister [to Cairo] indicates that he's not serious at all," Jouejati said in a phone interview from Washington DC.

The LCC spokesperson highlighted that killings were still continuing in Syria while regime officials were signing the Arab League deal in Cairo.

"The killing hasn't stopped today. Last I checked, today's death toll was at 13, but I'm sure it has risen since," she said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem announced at a press conference on Monday that Syria had signed an amended Arab League deal that will permit Arab observers into the country in exchange for the lifting of Arab sanctions imposed on Damascus.

Arab League chief Nabil Arabi confirmed the signing with the first observers to be sent to Syria within 72 hours.

Jouejati questioned the efficacy of the Arab League observers, criticizing the initiative as not having "any teeth," adding that the Assad regime will deploy "old tactics" to manipulate what the observers are able to see in Syria.

"The security forces and the regime operators are very adept at moving people around. They clear entire prisons and shift [prisoners] around so they can show people how pretty and clean the jails are," Jouejati said.

Rather, the Arab League deal will only give Assad a "pretext to remove this [crisis] from the UN Security Council and allows him to continue to try to crush the protests," she argued.
"The Assad regime is going to say 'here we have cooperated, we've allowed monitors, we've moved forward with our diplomatic friends'," Jouejati added, implying that the onus was now placed on the opposition to respond.

"I think this makes a chaotic situation more chaotic, and the chaos is driven by Assad."
Jouejati insisted that the LCC's position remained firmly against negotiations with the regime, calling for an "Assad free zone" in Syria.

In response to social media rumors that Assad could seek to negotiate a national unity government, Jouejati ruled out any hope of dialogue with the regime, saying "too much blood had been spilled."

"The violations have been far too gross for the Syrian protesters on the street to accept any sort of negotiations," she said.

The LCC's comments came only hours after the SNC head Burhan Ghalioun dismissed the Arab League signing as a "ploy."

"The Syrian regime is maneuvering to try to prevent the Syrian file being submitted to the UN Security Council," said Burhan Ghalioun. "This is just a ploy. They have no intention of implementing any initiative."

While the opposition poured cold water on the Arab League deal, Assad's key ally Iran welcomed the signing as "acceptable."

"Whatever is accepted by President Assad is an acceptable act in Iran's view," Iran's deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahi told Al Alam television.

"Of course some modifications could be considered in the plan...However, many of Iran's standpoints have been considered in the deal," he told the station.

Syria's uprising is in its tenth month, and has claimed over 5,000 lives, according to the latest UN figures.

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