Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why Europe Needs to Back Russia’s Syria Policy

Finian CUNNINGHAM | 01.11.2015 | 00:00

Russia has said it simply and succinctly: Europe needs to end the Syrian conflict if it wants to solve its refugee crisis. That integral solution involves respecting the sovereign government of Syria to defeat the foreign-backed covert war of regime change. 
It involves respecting the Syrian people’s right to determine their political future; and it means Europe rejecting the illegal agenda of Washington, London and Paris to overthrow the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In short, it means Europe aligning itself with Russia in its policy on Syria.
President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s position on Syria while hosting German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel in Moscow. As if to underline the importance of Moscow’s words, relations between European Union states this week took a new twist in fraying at the seams.
The tensions between the EU Balkan states over unprecedented refugee numbers have now boiled over to embroil Germany and Austria – two stalwart members of the bloc with close cultural ties. The latest row came after Austria announced that it was the next EU nation intending to build a fence along its border to restrict the flow of refugees crossing into its territory.
Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere hit out at Austria’s latest initiative, calling it «behaviour that is out of order». Berlin has even gone as far as accusing Austria of «dumping refugees at dusk» on its border for Germany to accommodate. While Vienna lashed out at Chancellor Merkel for encouraging the flow of migrants with her «open door policy».
It’s yet another sign of deteriorating relations within the EU resulting from the refugee crisis – whose main source of migrants stems from the four-year war in Syria. French newspaper Le Figaro fulminated against Austria’s decision to instal a border fence as «threatening Schengen» – the foundational treaty that guarantees the free movement of people within the EU bloc.
The Austrian move follows the decision by Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Bulgaria to build border fences manned by riot police and army personnel. Reports of heavy-handed police tactics against refugees have caused much consternation in Brussels. Germany’s Deutsche Welle newspaper ran an article earlier this month accusing Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban of overseeing a «creeping dictatorship» owing to his perceived anti-immigrant policies.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has denounced the dramatic trend of fencing out refugees by saying that such measures are against the spirit of the EU. The tacit apprehension is that Europe is coming apart at the seams.
Meanwhile within Germany, Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat Union party is coming under pressure from voters over what they discern as too lax a policy on taking in refugees. Anti-immigrant protests are being mounted in Bavaria, Hamburg and Dresden. And it’s not just the far-right Pegida movement that is agitated.
Polls show that even among centrist Germans there is growing disquiet over the surge in foreigners coming into the country. One poll found that only a third of Germans are supportive of Merkel’s «open door» policy towards asylum seekers. It is reported that Germany will process 800,000 new asylum seekers this year. The figure may even go as high as 1.5 million. Whereas, Britain and France have announced that they will accept relatively paltry numbers of 20,000 and 30,000 respectively. And even those low figures are providing plenty of polling ammunition for the anti-EU political parties of UKIP and the National Front.
Seen in this light, the admonition from Russia that Europe needs to find a solution to the Syrian crisis acquires full import. For if the Syrian conflict continues to rage, the numbers of refugees pressing on Europe will continue to grow, which in turn is certain to lead to ever-more acrimonious spats and splits between the EU member states. It is not an exaggeration to warn that the Syrian conflict and its concomitant refugee crisis is literally tearing Europe apart, putting the very existence of the EU bloc at risk.
While heavy-handed policing and bureaucratic hostility towards refugees is to be deplored, there is at the same time grounds for grievance among the «front line» EU states facing an unprecedented influx of refugees. With relatively small populations and weaker economies, it is understandable that states like Slovenia with only 2 million nationals are finding the sudden surge in desperate people on its doorstep to be an unwelcome challenge.
Hungary’s Orban has also made the reasonable point that Turkey is a safe country, so why are so many refugees being allowed by the Ankara government to pass through its territory on to Europe.
Furthermore, the Syrian conflict, which is the wellhead for the historic numbers of refugees, is a crisis that most European countries have had no part in creating.
Britain and France stand accused, with good evidence, of fomenting and fuelling the conflict in Syria to topple President Assad. Both London and Paris have been assiduous in pushing the Washington-led regime-change agenda for its hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East. Recall that former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed in 2013 that he was secretly approached by British officials back in 2009 with a covert plan to overthrow the Assad government. That was at least two years before the foreign-backed insurgency erupted in the country under the cover of a «pro-democracy uprising» that the Western media has systematically lied about.
The narrative of «pro-democracy protests» has since dissipated because the bloody reality of Western, Arab and Turk-sponsored covert war in Syria carried out by extremist mercenaries has become too conspicuous to conceal.
While Washington, London, Paris and their regional allies have this week convened Syrian «peace talks» in Vienna, along with Russia and Iran, there is no indication that the regime-change agenda has been dropped by the Western powers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart Philip Hammond appear to have softened their imperious demand that Assad «must go» to one of a transitional process of relinquishing power. But nevertheless the objective is still one of regime change. France, on the other hand, remains adamant on Assad’s immediate removal. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius ahead of the Vienna talks demanded a «clear timetable for Assad’s departure».
So when Washington and its European allies talk about a «solution» to the Syrian crisis what they simply mean is delivering an end-result for their long-held scheme to overthrow the Syrian government. That is not a commitment to finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It is about pursuing the conflict by more political means. And, it needs to be said, that is an outrageous violation of Syria’s sovereign rights.
One thing for sure with that US-led agenda is that the conflict in Syria will continue to rage and the numbers of refugees will continue to surge. This week the United Nations revised its figure for Syrians in dire need of humanitarian aid at 13.5 million – well over half the total population. How many more millions will join the ranks of the wretched? And how many more will eventually head to Europe?
The fate of Europe should not be placed in the hands of two American lackeys – Britain and France – whose hands are already drenched in Syrian blood. It is unacceptable that European countries are being burdened with a consequent refugee crisis that is not of their making.
Solving the Syrian conflict requires Washington and its allies to abide by international law and to immediately halt their illicit scheme of regime change and to call of their dogs of war in that country. That is the solution to the integral refugee crisis too. Abide by international law. How simple is that?
Russia and Iran have clearly and cogently stated this solution by insisting on the sovereign right of Syria to be respected. It is up to Germany and other non-belligerent EU states to show leadership by backing Russia and Iran on that policy, and by repudiating the criminal regime-change axis of Washington, London and Paris. 

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