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Just as we criticize Syria for taking positions in support of groups at the expense of states, we must also praise Damascus when it prioritizes the interest of Arab states, and supports Arab unity and the security of Arab lands. This is what happened on Wednesday when the Syrian Arab News Agency [SANA] carried a news item in which Syrian President Bashar al Assad asserted to the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi “Syria’s support for the unity of Yemen’s land and nation away from interference from any other states in its internal affairs, and its permanent preparation to help the Yemeni people escape the current crisis.” Al Assad also expressed “his support of the principle of dialogue which would serve the unity of the brotherly country of Yemen and its security and stability.”

This is a very important step, especially if we recall the Saudi statement that was issued immediately after King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s most recent visit to Damascus when Riyadh and Damascus issued separate press statements. The Saudi statement stressed “the necessity of supporting the brotherly Yemeni government and supporting its efforts to establish security and stability in all parts of Yemen and to eliminate sedition and unrest that threaten the unity and security of Yemen.” Meanwhile, the Syrian statement at the time did not make mention of Yemen.

In order to understand the importance of Syria’s position today, and the timing of this position in support of Yemen, we must look at separate points that if we bring together will give us a vague idea. [These points are that] the Yemeni Foreign Minister visited Damascus on his way from Cairo, which reemphasized its support of Yemeni unity. Moreover, the visit came days after Sanaa refused to receive the Iranian Foreign Minister on the pretext that the Yemeni President is too busy.

The Syrian position also coincides with protests being held in Tehran against the Yemeni government and another protest against Riyadh in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Last but not least, there is the ongoing Iraqi escalation against Damascus. Here, we must notice an odd paradox in this regard; in an article published in our newspaper by the distinguished writer David Ignatius (September 16, 2009), he wrote: When [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al] Maliki visited Damascus on August 18, he told President Bashar al Assad that he opposed the Syrian-American plan to discuss Iraqi security and would boycott the August 20 session…The Maliki-Assad summit meeting ‘was a failure,’ said one Arab official.”

Then came the events of bloody Wednesday and Iraq immediately accused Damascus [of being responsible for the bombings]. Here Ignatius, who is well known for his accurate sources, quoted a US official who said: “Given everything that we know, it seems very unlikely the plot was hatched in Syria.”

To further clarify the paradox for our readers, last week, following his visit to Baghdad and discussions on the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK], Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan announced “there is a tripartite Iraqi-US-Turkish committee to discuss this issue.” So why wasn’t the committee formed with Turkey and the US considered a violation of sovereignty in the same way that the security committee which was planned with Syria was?

Therefore Syria’s supportive position towards Yemen is important and it deserves a lot of praise as well a great deal of vigilance in the upcoming days on a number of levels and causes!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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