A secular-Islamist front must be built in Syria

Islamists and secularists must come together to overthrow the Assad regime (Michel Kilo writes in Asharq Al Awsat). Other topics: Indi'as ties with the Arab world (Dikr Al Rahman – Al Ittihad), Tunisia and Yemen offer hope (Hazem Saghiya – Al Hayat)

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A strong secular-Islamist front must be built as soon as possible to defeat radical groups and expedite victory of the Syrian revolution, the opposition figure Michel Kilo wrote in yesterday’s edition of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

In the past three years, the developments in Syria have proven that no party alone can defeat tyranny. Now, the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) shows that crushing terrorism cannot be achieved by any single entity, the writer said.

Both secular and Islamists must join forces to form a solid political and military front. This is the best way to get rid of terrorists in Syria as a prelude to toppling the regime of President Bashar Al Assad. Terrorists have always been used by Mr Al Assad’s dynasty, a fact that has grown more intense recently, as evidenced by the many documents found by the fighters of the Free Syrian Army at Isil’s dens.

The triumph against Isil will not be easy task, considering that it has experience, presence in many places, significant funds and arms, safe havens, ties with other groups, and is trying to win over sections of desperate people by providing them with assistance.

Isil’s fighters consider themselves to be invincible. The rapid advance in Syria, which is full of gunmen, military and political groups, may offer them further grounds for feeling powerful. No wonder Isil is now fighting Islamist groups and the FSA at the same time. For them, it is war for everything or nothing.

There is an urgent need to overcome the differences between moderate Islamic groups and democratic groups and work together in a nationwide civil-Islamic framework, or else they would be helping the regime and Isil and risk facing failure.

It is time to build a powerful front where all members will stand united against Isil and help boost the people’s morale to back the revolution and reject terrorists’ temptations via poisonous assistance, Kilo said.

Meanwhile, Loai Safi, a member of the Syrian delegation in Geneva talks, wrote in London-based Al Hayat on Thursday that they have no doubt that the Assad regime will not voluntarily hand over power. He added that forming an interim government must be the focus of the talks’ second round to be able to implement the six-point plan. Failure in that regard will miss the last chance to reach a political settlement.

As it stands, the Assad regime is not willing to cooperate. Therefore, for the Geneva conference to succeed the regime must be made to stop terrorising civilians, and the international community, particularly the US and Russia, are required to pressure the regime to implement the Geneva Communique to avert a larger regional conflict that will threaten the entire world.

India wants stronger ties with Arab world

India has come a long way over the past months in its relations with the Arab world, wrote Dikr Al Rahman in an article for the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

Two weeks ago, Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s finance minister, was in Saudi Arabia. Salman Khurshid, the external affairs minister, embarked on a week-long trip to Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan, after participation in the Geneva peace talks, the writer reported.

Moreover, Kuwait’s prime minister, Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak, visited Delhi in November last year, the first such visit in 10 years. The foreign ministers of Egypt and the UAE and the chief of the Arab League also paid visits to India in the past two months. And other high-profile Arab visits to India are expected this month.

For India, the centuries-long ties with Arab nations are of paramount importance. Any further progress has direct impact on the country, not only because the Middle East accounts for two-thirds of its oil imports, but also because an estimated 6.5 million Indians work in the region.

In 2012, India received $70 billion in remittances, according to a World Bank report. Most of these remittances come from Arab countries, the writer noted.

India is also wiling to assist in solving Arab issues. Mr Khurshid said recently that Delhi was ready to play a role in a peaceful settlement to the Syrian crisis.

Tunisia, Yemen offer hope for Arab Spring

The breakthroughs in Tunisia and Yemen provide grounds for hope after the Arab Spring suffered major setbacks in Egypt, Libya and Syria, wrote the columnist Hazem Saghiya in the London-based daily Al Hayat.

The picture seemed bleak for the Arab Spring countries with a serious setback in Egypt, the Syrian revolution turning into a civil and regional war, chaos reining in Libya and radical groups emerging in several areas, the writer said.

It seemed so until the new constitution was endorsed in Tunisia. Probably more important than the constitution was the atmosphere that surrounded the process. Tunisians have succeeded in settling their differences by political means alone. Islamists have displayed an unusual flexibility and seculars have managed to pursue their battle for democracy without resorting to the costly move of inviting the army into politics.

Not only has Tunisia offered good reason to keep hope in the Arab Spring alive; Yemen has also recently provided a hopeful example with the completion of its National Dialogue Conference.

It has been agreed to divide the country into six federal regions, with the capital Sanaa being neutral and not subject to any regional authority.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni