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Lebanon News

Jumblatt’s message to Syria mirrors that of Turkey

As soon as Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt expressed his support for the Syrian people’s right to freedom and democracy, describing the popular uprising as a true revolution, reports emerged over the Syrian leadership’s disapproval of Jumblatt’s positions.

Unlike his previous visits to Syria, Jumblatt’s meeting with Mohammad Nassif, the assistant to Syria’s vice president, went unreported by the Syrian National News Agency, which some observers are interpreting as a message from the Syrian leadership to Jumblatt.

Sources close to Jumblatt told The Daily Star that in their meeting, he conveyed to Nassif the need to consider seriously the Western and Turkish advice against continuing the violent crackdown on opposition groups.

The sources added that Jumblatt carried the same message that the Turkish foreign minister conveyed to President Bashar Assad earlier this week.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reportedly informed Assad of the need to implement an internationally drafted plan for reforms, a plan that carried a ten-day deadline. Otherwise, Western powers would consider passing a U.N. Security Council resolution that could pave the way for military action in Syria, similar to Libya.

However, Jumblatt described his meeting with Nassif as positive, saying Damascus was keen to preserve stability and security, as well as confronting attempts to spark strife while Assad pushes for the implementation of reforms, the sources said.

The reforms would include the approval of a new electoral law under which all parties and factions would participate in the polls, without threats or intervention from security forces, the sources added.

Jumblatt had been informed during earlier visits to Ankara and Paris that the countdown to a decision downgrading Assad’s pivotal role in the region had begun, and any threat by Damascus to play its card wouldn’t stop that decision, the sources said.

Jumblatt was quoted saying that “when states change, don’t get involved,” warning against any of the Lebanese wagering on the Syrian regime’s ability to continue its military-based approach to quelling the Syrian people’s uprising.

Jumblatt, who has called on Assad to engage in dialogue to move toward a multiparty political system that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people, said Lebanon should not be regarded as an isolated island that is unaffected by major political developments in the region.

The sources said that despite the Lebanese government’s recent decision to wash its hands of a U.N. Security Council statement condemning violence in Syria, the Cabinet finds itself compelled to follow up on regional developments, particularly in neighboring states.

The sources said the government should not sever ties with any state friendly to Lebanon as the country’s interests overlap with several Arab and regional states on the economic and commercial levels.

Thus, it is in Lebanon’s interests to keep such relations safe from political bickering, leaving to each state the freedom to deal with its own problems.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 12, 2011, on page 2.
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