Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Solana visits Syria : good or bad timing?

Javier Solana, Europe's top diplomat went to Damascus on Wednesday. His visit - the first for two years - ends France's ban on EU visits to Syria in protest at the murder of Rafik Hariri. Coming straight after meetings between the US and Syrian diplomats in Baghdad and an official visit to Damascus by Ellen Sauerbrey, US assistant secretary of state for refugees and migration, Solana's trip will be hailed as evidence of real rapprochment between the West and Syria.

On Solana's agenda will be Syria's role regarding Iraqi insurgents, the Iraqi refugee crisis, its support for Hamas, and its role in Lebanon's current crisis.

On this last issue, Solana may have problems wresting concessions from the Syrians. Today, the Lebanese government arrested four men who confessed to being paid by the Syrian Intelligence services to plant the bus bombs in Northern Lebanon last month. If made to stick, these allegations constitute more hard evidence against Syrian meddling in Lebanon.

However, despite these accusations, it seems likely that links with Syria and the International Community are set to grow stronger.
As Sami Mobayed argues in the Asia Times, it is Syria's influence with Iran which seems to be the real prize here. "For some time, the world has been divided on what to do with the Syrian-Iranian alliance. Some talk about breaking it - but this would be too difficult. Others, currently in the ascendency, want to invest in it. They believe that Syria is a country that can be talked to and which speaks reason. "


William said...

Very interesting. Syria is coming back into the fold fast. The big moment to correspond with all of this is the Saudi-Iranian as yet unanounced "Salvation of Lebanon" initiative (under a week away). This plus the Syrian attendance (in the shape of the President) at the Saudi hosted Arab League talks about ten days from now. Plus Israel accepting the Beirut initiative (except for the right of return) last week (Olmert / Leevni) . . . You don't have to be a prophet to see the way the wind is blowing

Anonymous said...

Arik writes from Israel:

Current Headlines of haaretz (and all other Israeli internet news sites):

"Solana: EU supports Syrian initiative to regain Golan Heights."

The framing is not too good, I am afraid. To the common Israeli it seems, from the news items, as though Europe is “taking sides” and giving away parts of the Jewish state.

I am not sure what this will do to public opinion, but it will definitely stir a debate. This public debate is not really led by any significant players and is used and abused by politicians to say just about anything.

William said...

Interesting Arik,

David Sasson (at least I think it's David) is organising a demonstration by Israeli pro-peace women on the Golan at the "shouting place" for May 4th. There is much to work for I guess - a great deal at stake. Peace between Israel and the Arab World is the greatest of hopes. And we - the likes of you and me - have an obligation not to loose hope in this dark world. There are far too many Casandras about and all too few positive people.