The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement yesterday announcing that delegations from the quartet of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran [and Egypt] have arrived in Cairo to discuss the Syrian issue. This comes in response to Egypt’s proposal which was put forth at the end of Ramadan, during the Islamic Solidarity Summit in Mecca. Yet the truth is that there are a lot of questions that must be answered by the relevant people regarding this quartet.
Firstly, there are questions relating to the Arab ministerial committee, headed by Qatar, which is responsible for monitoring developments in Syria. This committee emanated from an Arab League decree and its mission is to follow the Syrian issue regionally and internationally. This is the entity from which the bulk of Arab proposals and initiatives towards the Syrian crisis have emerged, from the commissioning of al-Dabi, former UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, to Lakhdar Brahimi today. Will Egypt’s proposed quartet cancel out the Arab ministerial committee, or will it serve to scupper its decisions, particularly in light of the presence of the Iranians? What about the role of the other member states in the Arab ministerial committee? What is the use of Lakhdar Brahimi travelling to Damascus whilst this other quartet is also working on the Syrian issue?
Secondly, how can the quartet of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Iran succeed while Nabil Elaraby, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, stressed the need to return to the Security Council once again in the League’s last meeting? Furthermore, how is this quartet consistent with the statements of the US Secretary of State after her meeting with her Russian counterpart, whereby Clinton said that if the Russians sought to disable the Security Council taking effective decisions against al-Assad, then America, along with its allies, will mobilize to support the Syrian opposition? Will the work of the quartet be undermined by this mobilization, through which we will see yet another initiative, which means granting more time to al-Assad?
Thirdly, how can this quartet initiative succeed given that al-Assad rejects it completely, believing it to be a clear extension of the recent Egyptian stance towards Syria, which was announced by the Egyptian President – for the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution – at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, and later in his speech to the Arab League in Cairo?
Fourthly, how can we accept Iran and Turkey’s call to discuss the situation in Syria whilst the Arabs often reiterate that they want to solve their problems without allowing Iran specifically to interfere? How can Iran today sit around the negotiation table and discuss Syria, especially given that the Arabs previously objected to Kofi Annan’s proposal to involve Iran in the resolution of the Syria issue? Not long before that, the Arabs also objected to the proposal put forward by former Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Musa, to hold a meeting of rapprochement between the countries of the region and Iran and Turkey. So how is Iran’s involvement acceptable now, especially as Tehran is not a country neighboring Syria like Turkey is, and is not part of the solution? Iran is a fundamental supporter of al-Assad, so why legitimize its interference in Syria now? Who stands to benefit from this?
All the above questions require answers from the relevant people, for fear that we will reach the point where we say that the Arabs must unify their initiatives and efforts towards Syria, after it has long been said that the Syrian opposition must unify their ranks! Will we receive any convincing answers?