September 17, 2012 (TSR) – The quartet committee on Syria kicked off its first meeting at the foreign ministerial level on Monday at Egypt’s Foreign Ministry in Cairo, state media reported.
The meeting was attended by Egypt, Turkey and Iran for talks on the Syrian crisis. Saudi Arabia, the fourth member of the group, is not present at the meeting, although the kingdom’s foreign minister was expected to attend it according to prior arrangement. “We will inform them upon their request about the details of the meeting,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohame Kamel Amr.
“The meeting is held in light of Egypt’s moves to deal with the deterioration of the political and humanitarian situation in Syria, ” official news agency MENA quoted Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nazeih al-Nagary as saying.
According to a statement by the Foreign Ministry early Monday, Egypt will focus during the meeting on an immediate end to the violence, maintaining the Syrian unity and safety of its lands, and rejecting foreign military intervention and the necessity to launch a political operation by the participation of all Syrian parties to achieve the Syrian people’s aspirations in democracy, freedom, and dignity in a multi-democratic system.
The committee seeks coordination with other positive participants to work out a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, added Nagary.
Iranian FM opposes foreign intervention in Syria
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi said Monday night that Iran’s stance has never changed regarding the Syrian issue, which supports a domestic solution to the Syrian crisis and opposes any foreign intervention.
Salehi stressed at a press conference here after discussing the issue with his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts that the Syrian crisis should be solved from within Syria, a way that he dubbed a “Syria-Syria solution”, while adding that “we cannot seek to impose a solution forcefully on Syria.”
He reiterated that “we once said that Syria has to respond to its people’s demands, and we haven’t changed our policy in this regard.”
“We have to be patient to reach a peaceful solution,” said Salehi, describing the group participating in the meeting as having “more agreement than differences.”
“I feel optimistic, and coordination between the participant countries are going to work out a peaceful solution,” he said.
Also, Salehi congratulated the Egyptian people for their great revolution, noting that Egypt now has changed its position on the regional and international arena.
According to him, the ministers have discussed during the meeting the general principals and thoughts with regard to solving the tragic situation in Syria and stopping the bloodshed.
The UN and the Arab League’s (AL) representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and AL General Secretary Nabil al-Arabi attended the meeting, where Brahimi briefed on his recent visit to Syria.
In response, Amr said, it is too early to have a specific plan on Syria but this is the ultimate target for the group’s initiative.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the meeting was seeking a regional diplomatic initiative and common prospective for the future of Syria, and that holding the meeting in Cairo is “a message for the Syrian people, they will have a democratic country like Egypt after its turmoil”.
The foreign ministers of the three countries also welcome the participation of other countries from the region to help the Syrian people achieve their aspirations.
The visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also called for solving the Syrian crisis regionally without foreign intervention, Egypt’s state media reported on Monday.
Davutoglu expressed optimism for the “contact group” over Syria to start its working procedures, official news agency MENA quoted him as saying at a press conference following his meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Davutoglu is to participate in a meeting of the quartet committee on Syria, which comprises Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey.
Davutoglu welcomed the participation of other countries from the region to help the Syrian people achieve their aspirations and urged Brahimi to quickly reach a settlement over the long-time crisis.
Meanwhile, Davutoglu added that Turkish President Abdullah Gul is likely to visit Egypt at the beginning of next month to boost the Egyptian-Turkish relations in all fields.
UN COMMISSION CONFIRMS INCREASING PRESENCE OF FOREIGN MILITANTS
The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Syria on Monday confirmed “the increasing presence of foreign elements, including jihadist militants” in the country.
Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the CoI, told the ongoing 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that some of the foreign militants are joining the anti-government forces while others are establishing their own groups and operate independently.
“Such elements tend to push anti-government fighters towards more radical positions,” he said.
Pinheiro told reporters in a press briefing Monday afternoon that investigators now have more evidence to confirm the presence of foreign radical groups.
“The signal of their presence is basically the explosions, the attacks that have been registered,” he said.
He said the presence is “one of the most alarming and scary elements of this protracted war” as “some of them have their own agenda” and they will take advantage of this conflict.
“We decided to call the attention of the Human Rights Council to the danger,” he said.
Pinheiro did an oral update to the HRC after the commission released its latest report on Aug. 15. The commission confirmed the conclusion of the report that Syrian government forces and anti-government groups were both responsible for war crimes.
The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Syrian government forces and the Shabbiha (pro-government militia) committed war crimes, gross violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, Pinheiro said.
Government forces and Shabbiha members were also held responsible for the killings in Houla on May 25, the commission said.
Pinheiro said war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial execution and torture, were perpetrated by anti-government armed groups.
He said a second confidential list of individual and units believed to be responsible for violations is being provided to the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
The commission considered it “improper” to publicly release the names because they were entitled to the presumption of innocence and no accountability mechanism was yet in place where allegations could be contested, Pinheiro said.
He recalled that the power to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court rested solely with the Security Council. He said sectarian tensions had increased dramatically in Syria, particularly in Latakia and Idlib governorates.
The CoI was established in Sept. 2011 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in Syria, and was requested to probe into the Houla killings in a special session of the UNHRC on June 1.
SYRIA ACCUSES TURKEY FOR FACILITATING ARMED GROUPS
The Syrian government on Sunday renewed accusations of Turkey for supporting armed groups, including al-Qaeda fighters, and facilitating their inroads into Syria.
“It’s regrettable that the Turkish government has for long pretended to be fighting terrorism, while at the same time supporting the armed terrorist elements and open its borders and airports for those elements to carry out terrorist acts against the Syrian people,” Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday in letters sent to UN officials and carried by the state-run SANA news agency.
It said that the Turkish government has allowed thousands of ” murderers” and “terrorists from al-Qaida and other Takfiri groups” to enter Syria to spread anarchy and destruction.
The ministry said Turkey was not satisfied with only hosting the anti-Syria organizations but set up training camps for those ” terrorists.”
In the letter, the ministry cited what it described as ” international media reports” as exposing that Turkey has received tons of weaponries from Libya and elsewhere in order to deliver them to the al-Qaeda fighters and other jihadists already operative in Syria.
It said that such moves are “flagrant defiance” to the resolutions of the UN in that regard.
The ministry called on the UN Security Council to immediately investigate the “dangerous” information which “are not secret anymore and published by many foreign and international media” in order to put an end to these violations and punish their perpetrators, funders and supporters.
U.S. MILITARY CHIEF IN TURKEY
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey discussed the Syrian crisis with his Turkish counterpart in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Monday.
Dempsey’s visit to Ankara came after Turkey and the United States established an “operational planning” mechanism to handle security threats caused by the conflict in Turkey’s neighbor Syria.
Dempsey, who arrived in Turkey late Sunday and is scheduled to depart Monday, was greeted with an official ceremony at the Turkish general staff headquarters on Monday before his meeting with Chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces Necdet Ozel. He also met with Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz and Foreign Ministry officials.
The U.S. top general’s meeting with his Turkish counterpart was closed to press. According to his remarks posted on the official website of the U.S. Defense Department, Dempsey wanted to learn how Turkey perceived the situation in Syria.
“I’m here to learn, but I’m also here to share what we think of this (Syrian situation) regionally. They are facing an immediate threat to their southern border. As a partner — bilaterally and also in NATO — we’re attuned to it,” said Dempsey.
“This is one of those times when we talk about our shared interests and Turkey’s interests in Syria right now are the same as ours,” he said.
RUSSIA VOWS TO BLOCK NEW UN RESOLUTION ON SYRIA IF IT REFERS TO CHAPTER VII
Russia would bloc any attempts in the UN Security Council to pass a resolution on Syria referring to the Chapter VII of the UN Charter, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Monday.
Moscow’s position is that the agreements reached in Geneva on June 30 should be approved by the UN Security Council as a resolution, Gatilov told reporters here.
However, Russia’s western partners are lack of political wills on this proposal, the diplomat said.
“We and the U.S. have different approaches to the resolution on Syria. They offer to fill it with sanctions. This is an unilateral approach. Such a resolution is unacceptable for us,” Gatilov said.
Chapter VII of the UN Charter allows the UN Security Council to use force in the face of a threat to peace or aggression.
Meanwhile, the diplomat stressed that Russia worried that some UN members attempted to solve the 18-month long Syrian crisis bypassing the UN Security Council.
“We are certainly worry about that. The attempts to undertake any unilateral steps bypassing the UN Security Council would deviate from a settlement. These measures are wrong,” Gatilov said.
The diplomat stressed that the UN Security Council is the only institution with a right to resolve international conflicts, adding that he did not rule out the possibility that the UN observer mission could return to the crisis-torn country.
Also, Gatilov confirmed Russia’s readiness to work with the new UN-Arab League join envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
In July, Russia and China vetoed a Western-proposed draft resolution, which threatens non-military sanctions by quoting Chapter VII of the UN Charter if the Syrian government fails to pull out troops and heavy weapons from populated areas.
The two countries explained after the vote that the resolution was “biased” and “seriously problematic,” and went against the Geneva consensus.
The UN-Arab League (AL) joint representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Cairo Sunday and will probably hold a meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as part of his regional mediating efforts to end the bloodshed in unrest-torn Syria, his spokesman Ahmed Fawzy said.
Brahimi arrived in Cairo for a second time in one week to exert diplomatic efforts to tackle the pressing issue of Syrian people’s suffering in the violence plaguing their country.
Prior to coming to Egypt, Brahimi held intensive talks with top Syrian officials in Damascus, including Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, as well as members from the opposition and the civil society, official news agency MENA quoted a statement by Fawzy as saying.
“Brahimi listened to all parties in regards to the crisis and ways to solve it,” added Fawzy, quoting the representative’s words as saying that “tackling the crisis needs first to stop the bloodshed, and then to search for a political method to move towards achieving the Syrian people’s aspiration.”
The statement added that a meeting between the Egyptian president and Brahimi is likely to be held. Brahimi will also meet the AL secretary general and members of the quartet committee on Syria, which comprises officials of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.
Brahimi is due to visit New York to meet participating leaders at the meetings of the UN General Assembly, particularly UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to consult on the conditions in Syria based on his visit to Damascus.
The next meeting for the quartet committee will be held in New York on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.