Implementation of Cease-fire Plan in Syria

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Abolqasem Qasemzadeh

Implementation of a cease-fire plan has started in Syria following the country’s acceptance of a six-point plan proposed by the UN-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan. Although sporadic clashes have been reported in various parts of Syria, Kofi Annan is apparently satisfied with the situation of cease-fire.

Russia and China, have asked the Syrian government to try to solve the country’s political crisis by implementing the cease-fire plan. The United Nations Security Council has also agreed to send a 30-member peacekeeping mission to the country in order to oversee implementation of the cease-fire and pave the way for the implementation of Annan’s six-point plan in its entirety. At this stage, a few steps are being concurrently taken in Syria.

1. The government of the Syrian President Bashar Assad is taking advantage of relative calm in the country to go on with proposed reforms and raise people’s hope in the implementation of those reforms. Thus far, the new Syrian constitution, which includes a number of basic changes compared to its past version, has been approved by the Syrian people through a referendum.

The single-party government which is controlled by Syria’s Baath Party has been replaced by a new system which makes way for multiplicity of parties as well as establishment of a parliamentary system in which all political parties can play a role. The new constitution has stipulated that the president will be elected through people’s majority vote for a period of seven years and every person can only run for president for two consecutive terms. As a result, Syria will have no permanent president anymore. The new constitution has also made changes to the status of the Judiciary power and its independence as well as rotation of power, division of powers and the country’s large-scale supervisory mechanisms all of which signify major changes to the Syrian constitution.

By approving the new constitution, Bashar Assad aims to pave the way for new Syrian parliamentary elections. To do this, he needs calm and tranquility in Syria so that all political parties could do their part in the political scene of Syria and in delineation of its future course. If Kofi Annan’s six-point plan succeeds in practice, recourse to military option and efforts to topple the government through military action and insurgency will be replaced with political rivalry. In that case, the Syrian people will be able to determine the future course of their country through a healthy process which will also bring peace to their country. Under current circumstances, however, many political analysts maintain that such a prediction about future outlook of Syria is too optimistic. They argue that the existing cease-fire in Syria is very fragile because the United States, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel are leaders of a current which is hastily calling for the downfall of Assad and sees any change in Syria hinged on the overthrow of Assad’s government. They say that accepting the cease-fire by this current under present conditions is more a result of pressure from Russia and China and their opposition to further spread of military action and civil war in Syria. These analysts also maintain that the American politicians have reached the conclusion that the overthrow of Assad will not be possible so quickly in the near future. This group of countries have seen Russia’s and China’s veto for the anti-Assad resolution in the Security Council while facing opposition of the majority of the Syrian people, who do not support the anti-government insurgency, to their plans. On the other hand, they have been faced with discord among Assad’s opposition figures both inside and outside the country and as a result of that discord, their plots and operations against the Syrian government have largely failed. They have noticed that the Syrian army has made armed opposition groups retreat behind the borders and most military operations which have been carried out from Turkey or Lebanon or on the suburbs of some Syrian cities have been crushed. The false figures given on the number of civilian casualties of the unrest and powerful anti-Assad propaganda at international level have not been able to garner much support for the Syrian opposition. At present, most European nations are faced with a host of domestic problems and the American people are either focused on the upcoming presidential elections, or tackling various economic woes. Therefore, the second group of countries – which seek the fall of Assad – has apparently accepted the cease-fire, but will undoubtedly try to undermine it if realization of Annan’s plan fails to meet their interests and stand in contrast to their policies in Syria.

2. The Syrian people not only welcome cease-fire, but also believe that reducing probability of civil war by restricting foreign intervention is the best way of putting an end to hostilities and providing grounds for necessary reforms in Syria.

The cease-fire is now enforced and deployment of 30 UN peacekeepers in Syria has totally changed general conditions in the country. In this stage, increasing political interaction with China and Russia and enhancing coordination with Muslim countries that are against violent policies of Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia will be very effective for ending crisis in Syria. As a result, another path in parallel to Annan’s plan can also be taken. While the first path – Annan’s plan – seeks to reduce military tensions, the second path aims to replace dialogue for armed conflict.

Providing Suitable Grounds for Progress of Syrian Reforms

According to Annan’s six-point plan, which is now the main agenda for ending the Syrian crisis, the Syrian government should:

(1) commit to work with the [UN-Arab Envoy Kofi Annan] in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, and, to this end, commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy;

(2) commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country. To this end, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centers, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers. As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with the Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism. Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism;

(3) ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, take immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause and to coordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level;

(4) intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities, provide without delay through appropriate channels a list of all places in which such persons are being detained, immediately begin organizing access to such locations and through appropriate channels respond promptly to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;

(5) ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;

(6) respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.

It will certainly take time before this plan is fully enforced. Bashar Assad is bent on holding Syria’s parliamentary election by late May. Implementation of Kofi Annan’s plan will provide Bashar Assad with an opportunity to encourage people’s participation in political matters and, thus, facilitate political reforms that he means to carry out.

Key Words: Cease-fire Plan, Syria, Bashar Assad, Kofi Annan, United Nations Security Council, Civil War, Reforms, Qasemzadeh

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review

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