Drafts reveal divisions amongst ‘Friends of Syria’ as they head to Tunisia conference

The ‘Friends of Syria’ group is expected to meet in Tunisia on Friday to discuss ways to support the Syrian opposition. (File photo)

Proposed drafts by Qatar and the UK for the international conference on Syria reveal differences and divisions between the Friends of Syria, according to the documents acquired by Al Arabiya.

The Friends of Syria will meet Friday in Tunisia to seek ways to end the bloodshed and oust President Bashar al- Assad, after two failed U.N. Security Council attempts.

British Ambassador to the U.N. Mark Lyall Grant told Al Arabiya on Thursday that “the Tunisia meeting is of great importance as it shows the international support for the Syrian people. There will definitely be numerous ways to help, whether on a humanitarian level or by supporting the opposition.”

Arab, European and U.S. diplomats are set to take part in the international conference on Syria organized by the Arab League, in an aim to agree on means to put additional pressure on the Syrian government to give up power.

Russia had already declared it will not attend, deeming the conference in Tunis one-sided because Syrian regime representatives will not be present.

China has yet to issue a statement regarding its participation in the conference.

Both the Qatari and UK drafts support the “League of Arab States’ plan to end the violence in Syria and to work towards an orderly political transition to a peaceful and democratic Syria.” They also ask for the “release of all arbitrarily detained persons due to the recent incidents and the withdrawal of all Syrian military and armed forces from cities and towns, and return them to their original home barracks.”

The two papers also call on the “Security Council to assume its responsibilities to stop the killing of innocent people and the ongoing massacres that are contrary to the norms and principles of international law and national laws, provide the Syrian people with international protection and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against the Syrian people, and bring them to justice.”

However, the Qataris and the British fail to agree on the “forms” of international protection and to what “justice body” the culprits of the crimes should be brought to.

Qatar's draft is clearly calling to "bring the perpetrators of crime against the Syrian people to justice before the International Criminal Court", while this issue remains vague in the British paper.

On the other hand, Qatar seems open to the possibility of arming insurgents, stating in its draft “the group would recognize the Syrian National Council and provide it will all forms of political and material support”, the British draft appears more cautious, limiting its support to “We stand ready to continue to support the opposition in their efforts through the delivery of practical support, including humanitarian assistance.”

Also, the UK draft refrains from recognizing the Syrian National Council as a representative body of the Syrian opposition.

While both papers call for urgent humanitarian aids and to “facilitate effective delivery of assistance, calling on the Syrian government to implement an immediate ceasefire and to allow free and unimpeded access by the and humanitarian agencies to carry out a full assessment of needs in Homs and other areas,” no mention of humanitarian corridors have been highlighted in the two drafts.

The human corridors issue was also refuted by Valerie Amos, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, in a document attained by Al Arabiya, where she says: “We must avoid militarization of humanitarian assistance. I believe that negotiated access is the most effective approach, and caution against calls for military interventions in support of humanitarian action, including to secure corridor and buffer zones.”

Finnish diplomat Martti Ahtisaari and Ghana’s Kofi Annan are the two favored names to head a joined U.N.-Arab League delegation to Syria, while sources told Al Arabiya that Annan would most probably be assigned for this mission.

(Additional writing by Rana Khoury)

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