Thursday 10 January 2013

Assad-Brahimi war of words heats up

Brahimi with the BBC's Lyse Doucet

On the ground, NATO says the Syrian military of President Bashar al-Assad today fired a ballistic missile towards Aleppo and Idlib. At the same time, Syrian jets bombed Idlib's Taftanaz air base after it was stormed by insurgents.
In the war of words, Assad’s media fired an unprecedented salvo of accusations against Syria troubleshooter Lakhdar Brahimi.
Syria’s state-run daily al-Watan lambasted the international envoy, saying he “stripped off his neutrality and laid bare his political nudity.”
“The international envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi,” it wrote in a short comment on its front-page, “yesterday took off the mask of integrity and impartiality he has been wearing since he was appointed to succeed Kofi Annan. He revealed his new face, which sees the Syrian crisis through the one eye that suits his masters.  He proved himself to be no more than tool to implement the Syria policy of some Western and regional countries.
“Brahimi tried to belittle the importance of President Assad’s initiative to solve the Syrian crisis by dumping out its content. He claimed it was not better than what he called the preceding ‘failed’ initiatives.
“He told the BBC in an interview, ‘I am afraid what has been said this time is not really different. It is even more one-sided.’
“He said reform is no more a bonus granted from higher up because ‘now people want to have a say in how they are governed. They want to take hold of their own future.’
“He overlooked the fact President Assad repeated five times in his speech that the initiative would have to be put to a national referendum.
“It seems Brahimi did not read President Assad’s initiative, which provides for ending the arming of insurgents, a national conference to approve new political party, electoral, local administrative and constitutional legislation followed by a reconciliation conference, a general amnesty and the launch of reconstruction.”
Brahimi later told Reuters in an interview in Cairo Assad could have no place in a transitional government to end civil war, the closest he has come to calling directly for the embattled president to quit.
"Surely he would not be a member of that government," he said prior to flying to Geneva for a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.
"In Syria, in particular, I think that what people are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long. So the change has to be real. And I think President Assad could take the lead in responding to this aspiration of his people, rather than resisting it," Brahimi told the BBC in his earlier Wednesday interview.
In other remarks, he also told the BBC’s Lyse Doucet:
“I think he [President Assad] has used the word [transition in our meeting]. But whether what he means by transition is really THE transition that is needed, I am not certain.”
“What you’re saying [that he told me in our last meeting he wanted to run for reelection in 2014] is absolutely true.”
“What Geneva speaks of is a transitional government with full executive powers. The other thing is: 2014 is too far away. I think the problem has to be solved in 2013 – and as early as possible in 2013. If we wait until the middle or the end of 2014, there will be no Syria.”
“The Syrians are talking two totally different languages. They’re talking past one another. They’re not talking to one another. The region is also not capable of helping at present.  So it is what I call the outer ring, the wider international community, than can help. That is why I have been working with the Russians and the Americans to see if we can get an agreement on how ro go forward.”
“[The two Syria sides] need to realize there is no military solution. The government will not win. And the opposition may win in the long term, but by the time they do there will be no Syria anymore.”