The Syrian problem will be the center of attention at the talks, which President of Lebanon Michel Suleiman will hold in Moscow tomorrow. The day before the arrival of President Suleiman, Walid Jumblatt, patriarch of the Lebanese and Middle Eastern policy, head of the Progressive Socialist Party and leader of the influential Druze community, conducted negotiations on the same topic in Moscow. During his visit, which ended this weekend, he met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, his Deputy Mikhail Bogdanov, and other Russian diplomats. However, he refrained from a detailed press interview with the exception of the Voice of Russia.
You had a long talk with Minister Lavrov about what can be done for a political resolution of the crisis in Syria. Did these negotiations inspire you with hope?
We should not lose hope in any circumstances. Syria has no other way out of this misfortune except through finding a political solution. Theoretically, it involves President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation. However, if he stays at office, it still implies complete transfer of his powers to a new transitional government.
Everybody notes the necessity of the transitional period, but, unfortunately, everybody interprets it differently. But a common international position is needed for the decision. Disagreement on the international arena – that’s what prevents us from putting an end to the bloody Syrian drama.
So, President Bashar al-Assad is the key figure. What role is he to play in the future transitional government?
As far as I understood, according to the current stand of the Russian side, the transitional period suggests that President Assad should delegate all his powers to the transitional government. A question arises: Is it possible? I don’t know. Personally, I doubt it. But I repeat: we should not lose hope. Or else, Syria will slide into uncertainty. I remember my meeting last year with Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. It was then that I told him that we are at the edge of a civil war in Syria and that everything should be done in order to prevent it. Well, it was almost a year ago…
Yes, I also remember that you were one of the first to publicly warn about the likelihood of a civil war in Syria. And what is your present assessment of the further development of events?
I have already endured a heavy experience of the civil war in Lebanon. Judging by this experience, Syria has embarked on the long path of instability. And, unfortunately, the games that some influential states play in the region facilitate it. There are countries that benefit from the war in Syria. Israel is the first among these countries.
The problem is that America does not show real interest in peace either. Maybe (I emphasize – “maybe”) they want to destroy Syria in order to build their “new Middle East”, and in the meantime createchaos, leaving Israel to take control over the region.
Barack Obama officially takes office for the second presidential term. There will be a new Secretary of Defense and a new Secretary of Statein the United States. What impact will these changes produce in the Middle East?
There is no doubt that the problem of Iran’s nuclear program will remain in the spotlight in the USA. In fact, even on the territory of Syria, Americans are waging a war of attrition against Iran. It’s not a secret, that the Iranians support the current regime in Syria in every way – politically, financially, and by supplying weapons. But we should not let this confrontation kill Syria. It is essential that Syria remains united, that the Syrian people drop out of this bloody ordeal. Syria is a key link in the security of the entire Middle East.
But today even the Iranians support the idea of forming a transitional government in Syria.
Yes, and it is great. But again: how do you convince those in power in Syria (and this is a narrow family circle) to delegate their powers to the transitional government? There is no answer to this question yet.
On the one hand, you support Russian diplomats, that the solution of the Syrian problem should not be imposed from outside. And, on the other hand, you state that a consensus of the international community is needed concerning the approach to the Syrian problem. So, who should solve this problem: external players or Syrians themselves?
One does not exclude the other. The role of international players remains important. If only there was an agreement between them, we would have managed to stop the bloodshed more quickly. So far, we see that the last attempt of negotiations was made at the Geneva meeting, which was held in the summer of 2012. (There, international mediators, including Russia and the US, basically agreed on the necessity of the transitional period in Syria – Ed.) Unfortunately, the interested parties interpret those already achieved agreements differently. And I do not yet see signs that they will agree.
And, again, I’d like to repeat that Israel is the major factor of US policy in the Middle East. And it seems that Israel considers the destruction of Syria to be in its interests. We should not forget that some international players want to take Syria from the orbit of Russian influence. Since Soviet times, Moscow consolidated its positions in the region by establishing partnerships with Syria, Egypt, and other countries. But the fact is that the current President of Syria Bashar al-Assad made a lot of mistakes, pursued short-sighted policies and, in fact, walked into a traphimself.
The visit to Russia by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman is underway. What is the significance of this visit?
The visit of the President of Lebanon to Russia is very important. It is important for the Lebanese to avoid negative consequences of the war in Syria. Everything must be done to ensure that the war in Syria does not spread over to Lebanon. And it is also necessary that Lebanese politicians carry on a dialogue with each other, because, frankly speaking, there are those who do not want a dialogue, for some reason believing that they will be able to determine the future of Lebanon all by themselves.
On his part, President Suleiman is doing everything to guarantee that the dialogue is continued. He is a reasonable politician and at the same time he is a steady person with strong nerves. President Suleiman and Prime Minister Mikati do everything possible to ensure stability in the country, and I support them here.