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MENA Mashup: Assad, Erdogan, and Gates

As the Syrian delegation checked into Montreux earlier…

Syria FM says Assad’s status ‘red line’

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Moallem said Tuesday that subjects related to the status of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are ‘red lines’ and can’t be ‘touched,’ the state-run SANA news agency reported.

Al-Moallem made the remarks upon his arriving to Geneva, Switzerland Tuesday evening, heading a Syrian official delegation to participate in the Geneva II peace conference, which will open on Wednesday in Montreux.

The minister’s remarks came apparently to make the Syrian government’s stance clear ahead of the conference, hinting that the government’s delegation to Geneva will not accept talks about Assad’s departure.

The Syrian government repeatedly said that it wasn’t going to Geneva to hand over the power, but to negotiate with the opposition to find a solution to the crisis.

It also said that the peace talks must focus on combating terrorism in Syria, while the opposition wants the conference to lead to the formation of a transitional government without any role for al-Assad.

Syria wants the Geneva II conference to be successful as a first step to launch a Syrian-Syrian dialogue on their territories, al-Moallem said in Geneva.

The goal of Geneva II is to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communique, adopted after the Geneva I conference in 2012.

The communique, which has been endorsed by the UN Security Council, lays out key steps to end the violence.

Funny how the Syrian delegation ran into probs en route to Montreux…

…The crisis over Syria is set to deepen after recent claims of photographic evidence of torture under Assad’s regime. The photos have been reviewed by a team of international prosecutors who said there was evidence of systematic abuse and murder involving 11,000 detainees.

It is likely to increase demands for Assad to step down and face an international war crimes trial.

And the Syrian delegation’s plane was held up when a Greek firm in Athens refused to refuel it, citing an EU trade embargo.

Now, I smell a rat about that ‘Photographic Evidence’…! How convenient that a defector should just happen to release all those gruesome photos on the eve of Geneva II, and, did you also notice how fast(and many!) MSM outlets rushed to publish them…?

Let’s remember that last rush to judgement in Syria…

Human Rights Watch’s Syria Dilemma

Which brings me to Erdogan’s recent rich hypocrisy…

Turkish PM urges UN to take action after Syria photos

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to take decisive steps regarding the Syrian crisis, following the release of several thousand photos documenting war crimes committed by Syria’s Assad regime, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.

Speaking at a joint press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Erdogan stressed that Turkey was extremely disturbed by the Syria photos.

The photos, which document war atrocities, were published on Monday by leading news agencies, including the Anadolu Agency, alongside a report by forensic experts.

The 55,000 photographs purportedly revealed evidence of systematic torture by the Syrian regime. They were taken by a former Assad official over a two year period.

Erdogan added: ‘They show how serious the savageness, massacre, and genocide (in Syria is). I wish to reiterate from Brussels that mankind must take immediate action and the necessary steps in the face of the developments in Syria.’

More from that Erdogan-EU meeting…

EU calls on Turkey to better observe its political criteria for accession

…Van Rompuy told reporters that he discussed with the prime minister current developments in Turkey since 17 December, when three Ministers of the Turkey government resigned for taking bribes, which triggered wide protests.

He said that Turkey as a candidate country, should commit itself to respect the political criteria of accession, including the application of the rule of law and separation of powers.

‘It is important not to backtrack on achievements and to assure that the judiciary is able to function without discrimination or preference, in a transparent and impartial manner and I welcome the further dialogue on this between Turkey and the European Union,’ said Van Rompuy.

‘I think these are fundamental principles of democracy and they are, in the first place, in Turkey’s very own national political and economic interest,’ said Barroso, “But also they are a central and vital element of the Copenhagen criteria for the EU accession negotiations.’

Inspite of the criticism, Erdogan insisted that both his country and the EU were satisfied with Turkey’s EU accession process. ‘Turkey will not be a burden of the EU, but an engine,’ he said. {…}

The two sides also discussed the Syrian conflict. Erdogan told reporters that it cost Turkey around 2 billion U.S. dollars in helping about 700,000 refugees from Syria, but only got 130 million U.S. dollars from the international community. He called for awareness on the ‘burden’ of his country.

Turkey started accession talks with the EU in 2005, but the process has been slowed down by its dispute with Cyprus as well as strong resistance from a few member states including Germany and France, and it resumed the negotiation on Oct. 22 last year.

Funny how Erdogan had hosted the rebels recently…

The decision was apparently eased by a surprise message of support from commanders of some of the biggest rebel groups fighting on the ground, who had been summoned by their international sponsors to a parallel meeting in Ankara, the Turkish capital…But the arrival of the message at the secret location outside Istanbul where the coalition members were meeting helped them overcome their misgivings and take a decision on the controversial issue, said Abdulrahman Haj, one of those who participated in the vote… Turkey and Qatar hosted the Saturday meeting, at which rebel commanders were threatened with a cutoff of aid if they did not support the peace talks, according to rebel officials who spoke to people at the meeting…

In wrapping up, Gareth Porter completely dissembles Gates’ Memoir…

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