By Nahed al Huseini for UWI / Damascus, Syria
Middle Eastern diplomacy around the Arab Republic of Syria has accelerated very much in the recent weeks. The Syrian Foreign Minister has visited a number of countries, and Damascus has also received official delegations from its neighbors, last but not least from the President of Iran. The country’s return to the Arab League is on the agenda. At the same time, Syrian delegations are meeting with their Turkish, Iranian and Russian counterparts in Moscow. A meeting of these countries’ foreign ministers is announced to take place on May 10. Meanwhile, China has also strengthened its diplomatic activities in the region.
On all these matter we spoke with Dr. Nabil Toumeh, a Ba’ath party member in the Syrian People’s Assembly. In parliament since 2016, Dr. Toumeh is an influential intellectual in his country, having written various books on literature and philosophy and leading important publishing houses. Besides on publishing, Dr. Toumeh is also an active investor in various fields and has been targeted by U.S. sanctions in 2020.
What are the results of the recent ministerial meeting in Moscow, including the Turkish and Syrian sides?
This was the second meeting in sequence, as its aim was to be acquainted with the Syrian and Turkish visions and analyze the outcome of the first meeting held by the Russian and Iranian guarantors who consented on narrowing the wide gap between the two sides. The Syrian side insisted on a radical solution to the crisis that includes a guaranteed approval. Only then is it possible to phase out the process, with an immediate execution of the priorities.
Meanwhile the Turks have many sticking points that need to be solved on the ground, the ramifications of which are not an easy task. The question that must be asked within this dialogue is when will the Syrian and Turkish peoples see tangible results? As I mentioned above, all those meetings that had preceded the military and security ones were pillar stones to crown results with success.
The rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran has an obvious impact on the conflict in Yemen. Do you expect changes as well in Syria?
China has been successful in reconciling the views of both sides, including the agreement to reopen embassies and create an understanding environment with the Yemeni leadership in Sana’a, “Al Houthi”, that evolved into the exchange of prisoners despite the American annoyance. This convergence turned into a reality for new births that will show a diversity of new poles or blocs facing off the NATO. India, Brazil and Iran as well as China, Russia and South Africa will have a reason to make the BRICS or Shanghai system successful. And certainly this triumph, together with the Iranian-Saudi Arabian convergence, will have a positive impact on Syria and the NATO member Türkiye, especially if Ankara was able to leave the NATO.
Saudi Arabia moved “closer to neutrality in global conflicts”
Are the recent ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia a reflection of that? What do you expect from these?
There are many ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia that cannot be cut, though the relations were a bit rough in the past as a result of the international turmoil and the global conflict. I believe destroying Syria facilitates control of the Middle East. Syria’s success in fighting back for its stability by defeating most of the tools of terrorism, the events of the Ukrainian-Russian war, as well as the resurrection of multipolarity has encouraged the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, to have a position closer to neutrality in all global conflicts.
This position in particular has led to Syria opening a door for dialogue with all countries, the most important of which are Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Türkiye. What we expect may require some time, however, it carries significant aspects on all political, social and economic levels for all parties.
“Backing armed opposition in the Middle East is way behind us now”
Specifically, Saudi Arabia supports parts of the armed opposition in Syria. Will that change?
Backing armed opposition in the Middle East is way behind us now, because it did not benefit anybody. It was a lose-lose game. Thus, everyone reached the conviction that the political solution is the best. The new approach led to the rapprochement between Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab states, and prompted Russia and Iran to mediate between Syria and Türkiye.
Russia calls Saudi Arabia “to contribute to ending illegal American presence in Syria”
Russia also mediates between Syria and Saudi Arabia. Does this mediation also deal with the illegal American presence on Syrian territory?
Russia seeks real stability in the Middle East and it has an opinion to present to everyone. Not only Syria but also all countries of the world consider the illegal American presence in our country as an act of aggression and occupation.
In Türkiye, for example, the American presence is legitimate: The Turkish government rules it and imposes exceptions. Otherwise it would be considered an act of aggression, as well as in many countries. And the Russian presence in Syria follows an agreement with the Syrian government. Russia mediates and calls on Saudi Arabia to contribute effectively to ending the illegal American presence on the Syrian territories.
“Atatürk departed from Damascus to found the first Turkish Republic”
The doors are wide open to Syrian diplomacy. The country’s return to the Arab League is debated. Where do you place Türkiye in all these developments?
After the occurrence of the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye, the gates of Arab diplomacy were opened, not only for Syria, but for Türkiye as well. The issue of Syria’s return to the Arab League is only a matter of time, because Syria’s belief in bilateral relations and their activation to a large degree is considered a prelude to an Arab consensus on Syria’s return to the League.
Türkiye will benefit greatly because Syria is considered the most important economic gateway for Türkiye via the entire Gulf system. Also, Syrian-Turkish historical relationship cannot be cast aside. Remember that Kemal Atatürk from his exile here in Damascus returned accompanied by the officers of his garrison to establish the First Turkish Republic. Can anyone deny that, not to mention the spiritual, urban, and family ties that exist between the two peoples?
Syrian-Turkish relations will “lead to quick solution of Kurdish problem East of Euphrates”
With the re-engagement of Syria in Arab diplomacy and the increasing influence of China and Russia in the region, what are the prospects for the US-backed Kurdish movement for constitutional reform and the establishment of a federation in Syria?
My answer to this question is simple, accurate and frank. The success of Syrian-Turkish relations will lead to a quick solution to the Kurdish problem in the East of the Euphrates. The agreements reached in the end of the nineties between the two stated annihilated the Kurdish armed organizations, with a remarkable success. Today, I confirm again that the success of Syrian-Turkish relations will lead to a quick solution to the Kurdish issue in Syria, Türkiye, Iraq and Iran. There is the need to accelerate the Syrian-Turkish solution that preserves the Syrian sovereignty over its lands.
Moreover, the withdrawal of Turkish forces from the Syrian lands will definitely end the presence of all armed terrorist organizations. This is the first point. Secondly, the political solution will have a real presence that preserves the existence of the Syrian component, via self-administrations or others.