Socialist International urges urgent action on Syria in İstanbul meeting

Socialist International urges urgent action on Syria in İstanbul meeting

(Photo: Cihan)

March 23, 2012, Friday/ 17:34:00/ NOAH BLASER

Delegates from 21 European and Middle Eastern socialist parties attended a meeting of the Socialist International in İstanbul on Friday, discussing democratization efforts in Arab Spring states and the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria.

“We are alarmed by events in Syria and believe that a ceasefire must immediately be granted and an end to the international community's deadlock must be achieved quickly,” said Socialist International President and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. “The burden for the violence is now squarely on the Syrian regime, whose actions we strongly condemn.” Republican People's Party Chairman (CHP) and conference host Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu meanwhile cautioned against foreign intervention in Syria, saying that outside powers would quickly turn the clashes into a “bloody civil war.”

Kılıçdaroğlu’s party has reacted harshly to Ankara’s hints that it would participate in a UN-backed “humanitarian intervention” in Syria and recently suggested that “imperialist powers” are pressing Turkey to intervene in the conflict. “Some are avoiding entering Syria and trying to talk Turkey into doing it,” Kılıçdaroğlu said recently during a speech in the central Anatolian province of Niğde, noting that the US, Britain and France all seem determined to avoid militarily involvement in Syria. “Why should we go into Syria? Syria is our neighbor, brother. Why should Muslim nations fire guns at each other?” Kılıçdaroğlu asked.

The CHP chair further warned that the political optimism and moral solidarity that drove the Arab Spring uprisings last year may be giving way to an “Arab Fall” of half-hearted political reforms and eroding minority rights. Critics world wide have cautioned that the Arab Spring of 2011 risks a fate similar to Europe’s infamous 1848 “Spring of Nations” revolution, where a generation of wide-eyed revolutionaries were swept aside by Europe’s powers-that-be. Lest Syria’s revolutionaries meet a similar fate at the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s country-wide crackdown on dissent, members on Friday spoke of the need to foster a decisive international response to the crisis.

“This is not an issue that we should think of in the context of “the Socialist family,” but as members of the international community,” said Papandreou. He added that European and Middle Eastern leaders need to be more decisive in bringing Damascus allies Russia and China on board with a plan that would “ensure the safe and prompt delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria.”

Such an effort might seem easier said than done after UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan struggled to reach a deal with Damascus earlier this month. Yet Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party envoy and European Parliament member Maria Muniz pointed out that “much more pressure could still be placed on ‘third countries’ Russia and China” to secure their two UN Security Council members’ support in the coming weeks.

Russia and China recently agreed to a non-binding Security Council agreement that would see a cease-fire and the delivery of humanitarian aid, but Muniz and other envoys said that more would be possible if European states signal to the two nations that support for Assad might imperil relations and trade with the EU.

The meeting also saw envoys express doubts over the fragmented state of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). Specially invited members of the SNC meanwhile argued that the opposition was working to unite and that the international community’s focus should be on the “pressing and basic human needs” of the Syrian people.

“There’s so much focus on the political aspect of the opposition’s identity,” commented Syrian rights blogger and panelist Sherien Hayek to Today’s Zaman. “But what is really critical now is a deal that would help alleviate the most pressing problem, the massive humanitarian crisis.”

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