Calls for Syria action as Arab world on Davos centre stage
DAVOS, Switzerland - Global political and business leaders heard calls for urgent action over Syria's escalating civil war on Friday, January 25, as the Arab world took centre stage at the Davos forum.
Jordan's King Abdullah II was to address the world's elite at the Swiss ski resort and regional government chiefs were to discuss transformations in Arab countries, on the second anniversary of Egypt's revolution.
Regional experts and diplomats meanwhile warned that Syria's conflict was threatening to settle into a long and bloody war and urged the international community to take more action to stop the violence.
"We have something like a military stalemate on the ground and this can continue for a long time," said Ghassan Salame, dean of the Paris School of International Affairs and former Lebanese culture minister.
"Don't underestimate the possibility of a protracted war that takes us into years and years," he said, noting that few expected Lebanon's 15-year civil war to last for so long.
"Today there are more than 60,000 dead... Can we wait until it's double that? Can we wait until it's triple that? This is a shame on all of us," said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-envoy to the United States and Britain.
He said the global community needed to support Syria's opposition against President Bashar al-Assad, including by supplying them with weapons.
"I assume we are sending weapons, and if we are not sending weapons then it would be a terrible mistake on our part. In Syria you have to level the playing field," he said.
Calls were also issued for more humanitarian assistance both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, where more than 600,000 refugees have fled.
International Committee of the Red Cross chief Peter Maurer said aid groups were finding it difficult to deliver assistance inside Syria and that there needed to be "respect for international humanitarian laws and principles".
"We are definitely very much concerned by what we witness on the ground, by the expansion of the violence... by the depth of the crisis and of course the difficulty to reach people in need," he said.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, whose country is hosting 300,000 Syrian refugees, said greater efforts were needed to help countries that have taken in those fleeing the war.
"There is a lot more that can be done by the international community to help us," he said.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country had already spent about $500 million (370 million euros) on assisting more than 160,000 Syrian refugees and that concerted action was needed.
"This is our historic duty," he said. "All of us have to act together."
Abdullah's speech was to come after preliminary election results Thursday showed pro-regime loyalists and independent businessmen set to sweep a parliamentary vote in Jordan.
The poll was touted as a focal point of pro-democracy moves by the king, but was shunned by Islamists who want wholesale reforms.
Later the premiers of Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and the Palestinian Territories will discuss the transformations wrought by the Arab Spring, as protesters gathered in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on the second anniversary of Egypt's uprising.
Huge demonstrations were expected in response to a call from the secular-leaning opposition for protests against the country's Islamist government.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Thursday also used his trip to Davos to make a fresh appeal to members of the Security Council to overcome their divisions and find a solution to the civil war in Syria.
Ban said it would be an "abdication" of the world body's responsibilities if it fails to unify over the crisis.
"The alternative -- letting the sides fight it out, resigning ourselves to Syria's destruction with all its regional implications -- is too costly and unacceptable," he added.
"That would be an abdication of our collective responsibility to protect," Ban said. "The world, and above all the Security Council, must uphold its responsibilities." - Rappler.com