When Damascus accepted Kofi Annan’s mission to Syria, it was on the basis of assurances from the UN special envoy that he would help end violence from all sides. The international community stood behind Annan’s mission, supporting his efforts so that the political process for reconciliation and implementation of economic and political reforms could start. Annan is yet to complete identifying the armed groups fighting the Syrian army and the countries supporting them. So far he has been able to identify Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar who have openly called for arming the rebels by recruiting Arab mujahideens. Ankara has already hosted a ‘Friends of Syria’ summit where it made its intention clear to topple the Syrian regime. In the summit, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries decided to grant $100 million to fund the Syrian National Council (SNC) to buy arms for the insurgents and mercenaries.
The US has admitted that the bombing of Aleppo and Damascus bear the hand of al-Qaeda-like terrorist organisations. Of its many tasks, flushing out the terrorists from their hideouts in Syria is one more the Syrian government will have to undertake.
The question naturally arises as to why the Syrian government did not go public with the 19 French soldiers it reportedly captured during a flush-out at Bab Amr (Homs) on February 13. Apparently, Paris had resorted to back-door diplomacy to ensure the release of those soldiers along with French journalists embedded with the insurgents. The hurriedly arranged Annan mission bought the time necessary to conclude these negotiations. Media reports also suggested that Ankara had tried hard to release 49 Turkish soldiers captured by the Syrian army inside Syria but failed to do so.
The reason why certain countries are arming Syrian insurgents is to ensure that a 1970s Lebanon-like situation erupts, where the country is beset by a civil war. That is the reason there is no post-Assad roadmap, as the aim is to ensure that Syria descends into anarchy and sectarian violence. Already, the process of isolation and de-legitimisation has been put in place through the imposition of sanctions. It needs time and determination for any political process to succeed in Syria. However, any delay will help the opposition and external forces to accuse the regime of non-compliance and find excuses to topple it. President Bashar al-Assad must be allowed to implement the economic and political reforms that can save Syria and the Syrians from disaster. The success of the Annan mission will depend on the adherence to ceasefire by all parties and the commitment of the big players to a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Waiel Awwad is a South Asia-based Arab journalist
The views expressed by the author are personal