Is the Peaceful Solution Still Viable for Syria?

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Staffan de MisturaBy Viktor Mikhin.  New Eastern Outlook.

[Photo of Staffan de Mistura.]

A number of positive events which may have a lasting influence on the future of the whole region has recently occurred in Syria. The first — is the appointment of a new UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, an Italian diplomat that has been working in the United Nations for more than 30 years. Over the course of his career, Staffan represented the United Nations in Somalia, the Middle East, the Balkans, Iraq and Nepal, and in 2010 and 2011 he served as the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan. He held the position of  the Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy and led the European Institute for Peace (Brussels). Staffan de Mistura is a citizen of two countries: Italy and Sweden.

The position of Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League to Syria has been vacant since May 31, when the previous envoy, the 80-year-old Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, relinquished his post. Lakhdar Brahimi was employed in this capacity for almost two years after replacing the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that had also occupied this post. Lakhdar Brahimi has been trying for months to resume the negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition that had been interrupted in February, but all his attempts ended rather unsuccessfully.

The appointment of Staffan de Mistura to this post was welcomed by a number of states, including Russia, which supported his candidacy. It seems that Russia believes that the new UN special envoy will bring momentum to the negotiation process along with some fresh ideas. “This is a very good candidate. We support it,” – said Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin. Germany will also support the appointment of the new UN special envoy to Syria, said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: “Staffan de Mistura, has repeatedly demonstrated his outstanding diplomatic skills in the resolution of many conflicts, and Germany will support him all the forces at work.” German minister said Staffan de Mistura, takes on the daunting task — to revive the reconciliation process in Syria, so that people will finally be able to hope that the violent conflict will some day end.

Another factor that could lead to a peaceful settlement is the complete destruction of Syrian chemical stockpiles. “Russia welcomes with great satisfaction the successful completion of a large-scale unprecedented international operation for the removal of the Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and all of its components” — read the statement made by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs— “This means that the most important and difficult stage of the plan developed by the executive board of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and endorsed by the resolution 2118 of the UN Security Council has been successfully completed.”

The completion of the removal of all chemical weapon components from Syria allows one to note with a sense of deep satisfaction that the roadmap on the handover of the Syrian WMDs under international control introduced by Russia’s President has succeeded. Now it’s time for the final, highly technical stage of this international operation, that implies the neutralization of toxic chemicals aboard a specialized American vessel, as well as in the UK with the subsequent processing of those substances at specialized plants in the US, Finland and Germany.

All of this is a vivid example of how, working smoothly and purposefully, the international community can solve the most difficult challenges. In this process the support all states should show to a country that has deliberately given up WMDs is of utmost import. Russia calls on all states dwelling outside of the legal framework of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, to follow the example shown by Syria and to accede to this most successful and effective multilateral treaty in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.

Simultaneously, the complete destruction of Damascus’s chemical arsenal highlights the demagogic nature of the Western politicians, namely those who have actively supplied Syria with chemical weapons and its components. Recently journalists of the BBC got their hands on a document issued by the British Foreign Office, which suggests that the UK had been the sole supplier of the two most important components to Syria that were used in the production of highly toxic nerve gases, including sarin. British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed: “We judge it likely that these chemical exports by UK companies were subsequently used by Syria in their programmes to produce nerve agents, including sarin.” As a matter of fact, the licenses to export substances such as potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride were issued 10 months after the beginning of the armed conflict in Syria in March 2011.

This very nerve agent was used to choke to death hundreds of people in Syria over the course of the civil war. Moreover, the agents were not used by the Syrian government, it’s the militants from different terrorist organizations that should be held guilty for the usage of these chemical weapons. A joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that cylinders seized from the Syrian rebels in August 2013 contained sarin. This fact was stated in a letter released by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In addition, there’s evidence that proves the fact of possession and usage of chemical weapons by members of the opposition.

Another development in Syria, which can to some extent testify to the military success of Damascus, is the withdrawal of the most combat-capable terrorist organization from Syria – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which invaded Iraqi territory. However, there are a lot of reasons to believe that these militants will subsequently return to Syria. One of the reasons why ISIL went to Iraq in the first place was a CIA plan to provide those militants with modern weapons. In Syria, in the aftermath of recent events and due to the negative attitudes on the international arena, the CIA could not be supplying them openly with different weapons anymore. That is why the CIA and its agents, which can be easily found in the commanding ranks of the ISIL have developed a plan of transferring the weapons via allegedly terrified Iraqi military units. Somehow the Iraqi soldiers suddenly fled Mosul and a number of other cities in the north of Iraq, leaving their fully intact weapons behind, in accordance with the principle: come and take. Is reminds us of another principle – Lend-Lease, but in this case the weapons were paid for by the Sunni leadership of Saudi Arabia. One can only be jealous of US “businessmen”, who have been paid twice for the same product: one day they got paid by the Iraqi government, the next day – by Riyadh.

What makes the situation even more dangerous is that the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant on June 11 “captured a warehouse with chemical weapons” in the province of Muthanna (or rather it was “kindly left” for the taking by the Iraqi military), which stored about 2,500 chemical rocket engines, along with combat nerve agents. It is reported that the Iraqi ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, sent the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a letter in which he announced the capture of the supposedly guarded facility. In his letter M. Alhakim stressed the fact that the ISIL captured 13 of 41 warehouses, which kept sodium cyanide, used in the creation of a certain nerve agent – tabun. One doesn’t require special knowledge to understand that these chemical weapons will be put to a “good use” in Syria.

Now Syria enjoys a temporary lull, which, according to many political analysts, will not last long. The ISIL militants, in accordance with the CIA, must return to Syria soon, armed with modern top-of-the-line weapons, to spill even more blood over Syrian soil. And now, more than ever, the mission that Moscow should embark on is to take all the parties involved to the table and find a common solution to the bloody Syrian conflict.

Viktor Mikhin, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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