In the interest of all states: work for peace in Syria – now!

by Karl Müller

More than seven years into the war in Syria the Presidents of Turkey, France and Russia and the German Chancellor have agreed on fundamental points for a peace process in Syria. Many commentaries in Western media have mainly searched for flies in the ointment. It is true that critical points are to be considered in further steps. Still, the wording of the common declaration of 27 October 2018 at the end of the meeting in Istanbul, to which they had been invited by the Turkish President, is a ray of hope. Nothing would be more important for the people in Syria, the refugees and displaced persons and all who are affected by this war, directly or indirectly, than concrete steps following this ray of hope.

It would be a blessing if there really was movement in world politics and one of the focal points of this world politics – the events in Syria stand in many respects for the developments in the entire region of North Africa as well as the Near and Middle East – could come more to rest.

Motion in global politics?

There are signs for movement:

  • Just one year ago it would have been unthinkable that political representatives of countries who have been on different sides in Syria have met and agreed on fundamental points for a peace process.
  • It does not have to be a bad thing that the governments of USA and the United Kingdom which are among the main actors in the Syrian theatre did not participate in Istanbul. Maybe the French President and the German Chancellor acted in close consultation with the US and British governments. And if the French President and the German Chancellor had acted independently, this would be an important political step worth pointing out.
  • The attempts of the Russian President to find an understanding with the Turkish President have demonstrated that the Russian politics are more interested in living democracy and substantial progress in substance than in adherence to yesterday’s statements. The enlargement to include France and Germany was agreed upon in summer and could be along the same line.
  • There are further Russian signals showing a willingness to come to an understanding with the large EU powers and also with EU itself, in order to defuse the current conflicts. An important hint within this Russian political line, albeit hardly noticed in public, may have been a talk of the Russian politician Veronika Krasheninnikova at the German-Russian Forum of 18 October 2018 in Berlin1. She clearly denounced a policy of destabilising the EU by means of political forces she called “right-wing extremist”, they might also be called “EU critics”, using the standard argumentation patterns of the EU. The internet page of the German-Russian Forum reports: “In her talk she emphasised that Russia was a multi-ethnical state with various religions – there are Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Buddhists in Russia. For such a state supporting right-wing extremists would bring about enormous risks. ‘We have a responsibility for our country, but also for Europe’, she said. ‘A strong and solidary Europe is very important for us’, Krasheninnikova underlined, pointing to the important role played by Germany and France in the past.”

 

Syria and the migration issue

It is obvious that a peace process in Syria does not affect Syria alone and not just its immediate neighbour states but “global security and stability”, as the declaration states – not only from a military standpoint.
The Istanbul declaration also touches the issue of refugees and displaced persons. In his new book “Kritik der Migration” [Criticism of migration. Beneficiaries and losers], the Austrian publicist Hannes Hofbauer chose a fitting title for the question of the causes of Muslim migration: “The driving force: war”. Indeed: The wars of NATO states and their allies against (alleged) dictators and terrorists and the massive stirring of unrest in this region have brought an enormous death toll and vast destructions for North Africa and the Middle East. Here we should also repeat the words of the former parliamentary undersecretary and foreign affairs politician of the CDU, Willy Wimmer, cited by Hannes Hofbauer: “Between Afghanistan and Mali, the world is reduced to rubble under NATO’s thumb. Millions of people are being bombed out of their civilisation. A future is no longer possible for these countries, nor is one’s own life. […] War and unrest between Bangladesh and Nigeria, and economic considerations, too, create refugees.”

“Blowback” for imperialist politics

In the book “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire” by the US author Chalmers Johnson we could read, 18 years ago, that the imperialist US politics has to expect “blowbacks”, as Johnson calls it, and that the US will have to pay for their imperialist politics. This is what the European states experience now. They have supported imperialism and war politics against Africa and the Middle East almost unreservedly and actively; war was also the continuation of imperialist politics by other means. Is a rethinking beginning here and is the course about to change?

Example Germany

To name an example, a wrong policy has destabilised politics and society in Germany. The country of the “economic miracle”, which can rightly be called imperialistic, is torn; freedom, democracy and the state of law are seriously endangered; the public debate has become hysterical and the spectre of a “danger from the right” is anaesthetising the freedom, producing a mental conformity. This will lead to escalations. The large shifts in votes during the last years are just the tip of the iceberg. Angela Merkel’s announcement that she will stand down as candidate for chairman of her party, the CDU, and also not stand for chancellor again, is a very late but logical consequence of wrong political decisions for which Angela Merkel is responsible. So now the German governing parties must all the more be obliged to their word after they announced that they want to concentrate on the factual work.
But they have got to get it right. The agreement for a common declaration towards a peace process in Syria, with France, Turkey and Russia, is a step forward. If the current German government would really contribute to peace in Syria, it would also be a way to atone for wrong political decisions in the past years.    •

1     cf. http://www.deutsch-russisches-forum.de/forum-im-dialog-am-18-oktober-2018-in-berlin/905768

Joint Statement by the Presidents of the Republic of Turkey, the French Republic, the Russian Federation and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany


President of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the French Republic H.E. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Russian Federation H.E. Vladimir Putin, and Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany H.E. Angela Merkel gathered in Istanbul on 27 October 2018 for a Quadrilateral Summit on Syria.
The Presidents and the Chancellor,

  • reviewed the recent developments regarding the conflict in Syria and expressed their shared concern on the risks and threats emanating from the conflict for regional as well as global security and stability;
  • reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
  • underlined their firm conviction that there could be no military solution to the ongoing conflict and that the conflict could be resolved only through a negotiated political process in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and emphasized, in this regard, the importance of increased coordination among all international initiatives which aim at contributing to a credible and sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict;
  • reaffirmed their determination to fight against terrorism in Syria in order to ultimately eliminate DAESH/ISIL, Al-Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or DAESH/ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council;
  • expressed their determination to reject separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries;
  • welcomed the Memorandum on Stabilisation of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area, signed by the Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation in Sochi on 17 September 2018;
  • commended the progress in terms of withdrawal of heavy weapons as well as radical groups from the demilitarized zone established pursuant to the Memorandum;
  • stressed the importance of a lasting ceasefire, while underlining the necessity to continue fight against terrorism, through the full implementation of the effective measures as foreseen in the Memorandum and of the compliance of all relevant parties with its provisions;
  • reaffirmed their strongest opposition to the use of chemical weapons by any party in Syria and called for strict compliance by all parties with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction;
  • expressed their support for an inclusive, Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process that is facilitated by the United Nations and called for active participation in it of the Syrian parties;
  • called for establishing and early convening, considering the circumstances, by the end of the year of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva that would achieve the constitutional reform, paving the way for free and fair elections under the UN supervision and in compliance with the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate;
  • emphasized the importance of implementing confidence-building measures to contribute to the viability of the political process and a lasting ceasefire, and expressed their support for the release of detainees/abductees and handover of the bodies as well as the identification of the missing persons, as undertaken by the respective Working Group with the participation of the UN and ICRC experts;
  • underscored the need to ensure humanitarian organizations’ rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria and immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need in order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, and, in this regard, called upon the international community, particularly the UN and its humanitarian agencies to increase their assistance to Syria;
  • reaffirmed their solidarity with the host countries, in particular Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and recalled that they remain committed to the safe and voluntary return of refugees to Syria on conditions consistent with the international law;
  • highlighted the need to create conditions throughout the country for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their original places of residence in Syria, underlined that the returnees need security from armed conflict, political persecution or arbitrary arrests as well as humanitarian infrastructure, including water, electricity, health and social services, and emphasized the necessity of coordination among all relevant parties, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other specialized international agencies;
  • expressed their commitment to working together in order to create conditions for peace and stability in Syria, encourage a political solution and strengthen international consensus in that regard.

The Presidents of the French Republic and the Russian Federation, and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany expressed their sincere gratitude to the President of the Republic of Turkey H.E.Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for hosting the Quadrilateral Summit in Istanbul.

    Istanbul, 27 October 2018

Source: http://www.elysee.fr/communiques-de-presse/article/joint-statement-by-the-presidents-of-the-republic-of-turkey-the-french-republic-the-russian-federation-and-the-chancellor-of-the-federal-republic-of-germany/