NATIONAL

Demarche to Syria in the offing

Representatives of three emerging countries including India, who are also non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), will give a demarche to the Syrian government in Damascus on Wednesday, said diplomatic sources in the United Nations.

Officials from India along with Brazil and South Africa (which form the IBSA) will travel to Damascus to ask the Bashar al-Assad government to back off from using the security forces to crack down on protesters in some Syrian cities.

Rare occasion

This is a rare occasion when India is taking such a proactive step. This initiative is close on the heels of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna urging the government of Syrian Vice-Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad last week to exercise restraint, abjure violence and expedite implementation of political reforms taking into account the aspirations of the people.

The team will attempt to douse the rising tensions in West Asia especially after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government's patience was “running out.” Saudi Arabia and some other countries have also recalled their envoys.

With the West embroiled in three wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, it was not successful in its effort in June to corner Syria over an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which felt that a building bombed by Israeli jets in 2007 should have been declared by Damascus because “it was very likely a nuclear reactor.”

“The West is obviously building up the issue. It is an old issue at the IAEA which had asked for access while Syria denies the bombed building [which was later levelled] was a nuclear reactor. This will be discussed next week. India is studying…,” Indian government sources had observed at that time.

The visit also comes before U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon will present a report on Syria on Thursday. Mr. Ban had spoken to Mr. Assad last week and reiterated UNSC's concern over violence and the death toll. India has the presidency of the UNSC for August.

Multiparty polls

Mr. Assad has already announced plans to hold multiparty elections by the end of the year. That hasn't doused anti-government protests in some Syrian cities such as Hama — once the stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood where another crackdown took place in 1982 that was led by Mr. Assad's now-exiled uncle. Dara is another city that has faced a determined security crackdown which Syrian officials say has a large component of people who work in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and brought back tenets of hard-line Salafi philosophy.



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