Archive for August 16th, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bouthaina Shaaban: Opposition Backers invest in Government’s Demise, not in an Alternative Government

Bouthaina Shaaban, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad‘s political and media adviser, met with Chinese foreign Minister Jiang Jiechi in Beijing on Thursday. A purpose of her visit was to give “the Chinese leadership a real picture of what’s going on in Syria” and to coordinate with China to solve the current crisis that has taken thousands of people’s lives, China Daily quotes her.

During the meeting, Yang – as quoted by the Chinese foreign ministry’s (FMPRC) website – said that the Syrian government should take practical measures to satisfy the people’s pursuit of change, and to protect the people’s personal interests and reasonable demands. The wording is similar to that of foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu in October last year, in terms which have frequently been used by the foreign ministry since 2011. Today’s communiqué on the FMPRC website also quotes Yang as saying that China urged both the Syrian government and all other parties involved [in the conflict] that they should implement outgoing UN and Arab-League envoy Kofi Annan‘s six-points proposal.

Huanqiu Shibao conducted an interview with Bouthaina Shaaban on Wednesday, one day after her arrival, at the Syrian embassy in Beijing.

Q: Mrs Shaaban, what are your expectations during this visit as president Assad’s special envoy?

A: We are very grateful for China’s principled stance on the Syrian issue, and hope that China will maintain this position, opposing foreign interference, and letting the Syrian people themselves decide their fate and future. We hope to help China understand the real situation in Syria, a situation which is very different from the one described by Western media.

Q: What’s the situation in Syria right now? According to former prime minister Hijab who defected last week and reappeared for the first time on August 14, the Syrian government only controls 30 percent of the country’s territory now, is this the case?

A: There are battles in many areas in Syria, and nobody in Syria can avoid getting caught in them. What Syria is facing is the goal of foreign forces to attack, which isn’t directed against the president or any individual, it is directed against the Syria and the Syrian people. Hijab is telling lies, and he knows it.

Q: According to news, Hijab and two cabinet ministers defected at the same time. It appears that the organs of state power are under growing pressure from assassinations and defections?

A: Anyone who doesn’t trust the Syrian organs of state power and its system can leave. However, the [issue of] defections [is] clearly exaggerated. One hour after Western media announced that two ministers had defected, the two of them appeared at a cabinet meeting held by the president. That was really amusing. The outside world has frequently attacked the Syrian organs of state power as rotten and ruthless, suggesting that new organs of state power could provide the Syrian people with a better future. Why then would foreign forces tirelessly provide millions of US dollars to entice anyone within the current organs of state power who may feel tempted, rather than to make efforts to support new organs of state power? This certifies that we are still the best.

Q: 90 percent of Syria’s military are reportedly Sunni. They can’t be too staunch in fighting the armed opposition, because the latter may be their brothers and sisters, or neighbors. Has Syria already entered civil war?

A: Our troops don’t want to fight against their own people. The armed groups within our borders terrorize the people, take hostages, plant bombs, and what the troops do is that they restore order and peace for society.

Q: Even after 18 months, the power of the opposition doesn’t seem to be weakening, does it?

A: Maybe we can look at it from a different perspective: eighteen months have passed, and all those who kept announcing that the Syrian government would be in total disintegration within a week or a month should eat their lies. I hope there will be a time when the armed organizations and the regional and Western forces behind them will choose dialog, and end the bloodshed and violence.

Q: President Assad has called for dialog on different occasions, but the opposition says it has no confidence and resolutely declined. Why is that?

A: The oppositional armed organizations aren’t united; they belong to different factions. They get funding from different sources. They have been instructed to refuse dialog, because the target of those who fund them is Syria.

Q: Some countries have held three “Friends of Syria” sessions. Last week, Iran took the lead in organizing a conrary axis, supporting the Syrian government. Do you believe that Russia, Iran and other powers will support the Syrian government militarily if political means show no effect? And at the moment of crisis, would the Syrian army use biological or chemical weapons?

A: Those you mentioned first are the “Enemies of Syria”. If outsiders intervene militarily, we hope that Russia, Iran and China will help Syria to find a solution. If the Russian and Chinese adherance to dialog and avoidance of bloodshed gets unanimous approval from the international community, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a solution. The Syrian government is responsible and maintains the proscription of weapons of mass destruction’s proliferation in the Middle East. It isn’t president Assad’s determination to fight to the last; it is the Syrian people who make the decision.



» At a lesser frequency and scale, Independent, Aug 15, 2012


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Britain Shreds a Fundamental Principle of Diplomatic Relations

Ecuador has accused the UK of making a “threat” to enter its embassy in London to arrest Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, reports the BBC. There seems to be no clear confirmation from the British government, but a statement that the Foreign Office

can lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to fulfil a “legal obligation” to extradite

Assange. Britain may have the legal means to arrest Assange inside the Ecuaorian embassy – the BBC cites the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.

The act followed the 1984 Libyan embassy siege, and included an option to remove diplomatic status from premises which are being misused. In the Law Gazette, Carl Islam argued that

[f]or both legal and political reasons the Act is unlikely to be used in a crisis situation, but this cannot be ruled out altogether.


[..] even if the authorities were sure of their facts by taking action they ran the risk that the inviolability of the premises might subsequently be upheld in the courts with the embarrassing result that their action would have been illegal.

There were East Germans who took refuge in West Germany’s permanent mission in East Berlin – East Germany respected the permanent mission’s immunity. Czechoslovakia respected the West German embassy’s immunity when East Germans took refuge there. China respected the U.S. embassy’s immunity when Chen Guangcheng, and, decades earlier, Fang Lizhi and his wife, sought refuge there.

To avoid misunderstandings: this is no Assange-Chen-etc. comparison. This is a comparison on how countries respect or disrespect some basics of international relations. If Assange is reason enough to invade Ecuador’s embassy in London, any other reason will be good enough, too. All it takes will be the the passage of domestic legislation to the liking of the host country’s government.

How “special” does the British government think it is? It is unlikely that there will be fundamental conflicts with Sweden which would even remotely justify this action. Maybe Assange’s supporters are right to suspect that Assange’s final and forced destination, after leaving the embassy, would be America.



» Why Wikileaks can’t Work, Dec 1, 2010


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