On August 4th two powerful explosions shook Beirut destroying the port and most the city. According to recent reprots, the explosion was caused by the inflammation and detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonia nitrate. Reports of August 8th say the blast killed more than 150 people, while the number of injured exceeded five thousand. The political and social repercussions of the disaster may affect the entire Eastern Mediterranean.
In the estimates of The Economist, up to 300,000 people, or 5 percent of the population of Lebanon were left without homes as a result of the disaster. According to reports of August 6th, the authorities estimate losses at 3−5 billion dollars, which makes up about 10% of the country’s GDP. Restoration of the port infrastructure alone will require “hundreds of millions of dollars”, – the government says. Meanwhile, given the closed land borders with Syria and Israel, the port was one of the two, along with air communication, major supply channels for the country. The prime grain warehouse is now ruined, the remaining grain reserves will last “less than a month”.
On August 7th President Michel Aoun said that, according to one of the versions, the explosion was caused by “external intervension”. On August 8th Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that the main cause of the catastrophe was “years-long corruption and negligence” Diab called for early parliamentary elections without which, he said, the country would be unable to overcome the current crisis.
On August 8th mass protests rolled through Beirut with particiapants demanding the resignation of all members of the country’s leadership.Protests quickly grew into clashes with law enforcers and at some point the protesters seized offices of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry. Army units have now been brought into the city. By August 9th the number of those hurt exceeded several hundred.
Lebanon has been the scene of a fierce internal struggle which is closely intertwined with geopolitical processes in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranea, ever since it was created in 1943. In 1990, after a 15-year civil war, economic restoration began, which was based on foreign loans and foreign assistance, first of all, from rich countries of the Middle East, and on money transfers from the Lebanese diaspora. Lebanon’s economy heavily depended on the import of “practically everything” while political power and major monetary flows, including distribution of foreign aid, landed in the hands of several dozen affluent families and clans.
The current crisis takes origin in the events that took place in the Greater Middle East in the early 2010s. Iran’s leadership took the «Arab Spring» and the war in Syria as a direct threat. Using its influence, which relied on confessional and cultural similaries, Tehran created a network of “Islamic resistance”that incorporates “trans-border non-governmental actors in …..Syria and Lebanon”. Given the situation, Iran’s opponents fear that the Islamic Republic is set on “consolidating a fairly vast territory in the Middle East which is populated mainly by Shiites”.
Iran’s growing influence has affected the political layout in Lebanon. In the course of presidential elections in May 2018 the main pro-Iranian group, Hezbollah, and its allies, got an opportunity to block decisions that require a qualified majority. As a result, experts say, supporters of rapprochement with Iran acquired an effective instrument which enabled them to “manipulate Lebanon’s political system ….in their own interests”.
In turn, leading Sunni countries of the Gulf Region have been demonstrating an ever worsening discontent over the Lebanese Sunnis’ inability to resist Iran’s growing might. Кuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE were cutting down on financial assistance to Lebanon, even after the country’s government was headed by Saad Hariri, who holds Saudi citizenship.
Simultaneously, behind-the-scenes battles have intensified on the territory of Lebanon between Iran and the USA-Israel alliance. According to western observers, the war in Syria has boosted Lebanon’s value, both in terms of logistical support, and as one of the anti-Israeli frontlines. “In the face of Trump-Netanyahu-Muhammed bin Salman partnership the pro-Iranian “resistance axis” has strengthened its positions, building a “territorial corridor” that links Tehran with Beirut via Iraq and Syria”. In Lebanon as well, the intensification of American pressure on Iran, designed to “crash this “resistance axis” and stop the “regionalization” of “Hezbollah”, was making itself felt. In 2019 Washington imposed sanctions against Hezbollah, which dealt a strong blow on currency influxes into Lebanon. Just recently, prior to the explosion in Beirut, Hezbollah and Israel exchanged mutual threats yet again to carry out strikes along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Yet another important instance of Lebanese geopolitics of late is the growing confrontation between Turkey and its opponents. Critics say President Erdogan “wants to return to the sea expanses to gain control of the Eastern Mediterranean with a view to monopolize operations to prospect for gas reserves on the Cyprus shelf and thwart the building of a gas pipeline from Lebanon into Greece”. Such a course of events runs into fierce resistance from the fledgling informal regional alliance of Greece, Cyprus, France, Egypt, Israel and Jordan.
On the one hand, Turkey has been increasing its influence in Lebanon in recent years. “Operating in the country are public organizations which serve Turkey’s interests. Meanwhile, sceptics say that “as the Turkish economy continues to deteriorate, the lira rate against the dollar sees only occasional stoppages in its ever continuing downfall”. For Ankara, given the corona crisis, excessive bluntness and a stake on open confrontation look hardly practicable. “Another scenario” provides for ‘”distracting the attention” of opponents with the help of third countries”. Extensive assistance to Lebanon could fit in well with such an “image-oriented” approach.
Yet another factor that played a noticeable role in the social and economic destabilization of Lebanon is the influx of Syrian refugees. Nearly 1 million Syrians have moved to Lebanon in nine years. (The population of Lebanon proper is just over 6 million). This produced a negative impact on the labor market and put more pressure on the already struggling public infrastructure. Experts say “a considerable part” of refugees “live beyond the poverty line”, which only makes local problems worse.
Finally, the fifth factor that has aggravated the position of Lebanon yet further is the coronavirus epidemic. Most businesses had to shut down in the middle of March in order to stop the spread of infection. Quarantine restrictions were eased only in May. Coming to the fore now is the epidemic-triggered fall of oil and gas prices.
Gulf countries are a popular destination for Lebanese labor migrants, including representatives of highly qualified specialists. Until recently, these countries received nearly 40 percent of Lebanese exports. In turn, residents of oil and gas monarchies supplied Lebanese coffers with up to one third of tourist business revenues. A decrease in oil prices led to a new reduction of financial assistance to Lebanon on the part of rich neighbors.
By the early 2010s, given the above-mentioned circumstances, the economic model, which largely relied on loans, began to falter. Tourism revenues were running low, real estate prices dropped, trade routes via Syria were blocked. The GDP began to decrease in 2018. Deficit of the budget and purchase balance acquired a “chronic” nature. By the end of 2019 state debt amounted to nearly 180 percent of the GDP. Practicaly half of the state budget went to service debt in 2019. By the end of last year, after ten years of growth, the volume of deposits in Lebanese banks began to dwindle as well.
In autumn 2019 Lebanon was gripped by mass protests, which are believed to have been caused by the introduction of a monthly 6-dollar tax on the use of WhatsApp messenger. The protesters quickly picked up slogans that call for a battle against corruption, cronism and incompetence on the part of the authorities. In October Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, under pressure from the protesters. The “technocratic” government of Hassan Diab was formed only in January 2020. Diab’s candidacy was backed mainly by members of the March 8 Coalition, which is oriented at Damascus and Tehran. The main “achievement” of the new became the announcement in March this year of the first in the country’s history default on eurobonds.
Lebanon turned to the IMF for help. By April 30th the Cabinet had finally agreed on the preliminary “plan of restoration” of the economy, which formed the foundation of talks with the Fund. Negotiations are still under way. The government and parliament are engaged in fierce disputes as to the losses the country’s banking sector and its clients will have to sustain in the course of implementation of anti-crisis measures. In all likelihood, the losses will amount to billions of dollars. A number of observers say measures proposed by the IMF inflict a blow, in the first place, on the interests of pro-Iranian forces in Lebanon.
At present, western economists predict a 13-percent decrease of the Lebanese GDPin 2020. “The economic catastrophe is progressively sweeping” the country. Here are facts. By early August «the electricity grid produces only a few hours of energy per day, while billions disappear in the state-run energy supplying organization. The streets are cluttered with litter». The Lebanese pound has lost 80 percent of its value since autumn last year, while “prices are rising practically daily”. Financial hunger and deficit of commodities have put the state healthcare system “on the verge of collapse”. According to The Economist, meat has disppeared from the menu of Lebanese military. In the middle of the summer the authorities raised bread prices yet again. Meanwhile, the large-scale assistance announced by many countries of the world in the first hours after the explosion in the port can ease things only for a few weeks.
Practically all observers are positive that both the economic and political models of Lebanon are suffering a fiasco. It is unclear if there are still forces inside the country that could send it on the track of consolidation. The Lebanese society is historically divided into fiercely competing ethno-religious groups. The May 2018 elections revealed the presence of a new generation of politicians who are attempting to speak from the position of national interests. However, they are yet to prove their ability to compete for power and influence with the young generation of representatives of old clans and families.
Gaining from further destabilization in Lebanon are major ”ethno-confessional communities, frantically competing for power”. The weaker the Lebanese state, the more influence is accumulated in the hands of community leaders. Ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis each of the communities has been running their own hospitals and has been trying to attract supporters by handing out food and even money.
Of external players, the ones interested in further escalation of conflict in “the country of cedars” are those who are set on preventing the stabilization of Syria. And those who expect to continue to exert pressure on Iran. Speaking in favor of the opposite scenario are opponents to further militarizatioin of Eastern Mediterranean and to a new outbreak of geopolitical struggle on the vast territory covering Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Lebanon is in need of urgent and extensive assistance. Otherwise, the country risks stepping over the line of political chaos yet again. Given the dwindling resources, the current situation promises further aggravation of the struggle for influence, both in Lebanon, and in neighboring regions.
From our partner International Affairs
Saudi Arabia and Iran want to be friends again
Eventually the ice-cold relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia began to melt. The two countries sat at the negotiating table shortly after Biden came to power. The results of that discussion are finally being seen. Trade relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have already begun to move. Although there has been no diplomatic relationship between the two countries since 2016, trade relations have been tense. But trade between Iran and the two countries was zero from last fiscal year until March 20 this year. Iran recently released a report on trade with neighboring countries over the past six months. The report also mentions the name of Saudi Arabia. This means that the rivalry between the two countries is slowly normalizing.
Historically, Shia-dominated Iran was opposed to the Ottoman Empire. The Safavids of Persia have been at war with the Ottomans for a long time, However, after the fall of the Ottomans, when the Middle East was divided like monkey bread, the newly created Saudi Arabia did not have much of a problem with Iran. Business trade between the two countries was normal. This is because the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Iran at the time were Western-backed. That is why there was not much of a problem between them. But when a revolution was organized in Iran in 1979 and the Islamic Republic of Iran was established by overthrowing the Shah, Iran’s relations with the West as well as with Saudi Arabia deteriorated. During the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini called for the ouster of Western-backed rulers from the Middle East. After this announcement, naturally the Arab rulers went against Iran.
Saddam Hussein later invaded Iran with US support and Saudi financial support. After that, as long as Khomeini was alive, Saudi Arabia’s relations with Iran were bad. After Khomeini’s death, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatemi tried to mend fences again. But they didn’t get much of an advantage.
When the Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran’s influence in Shiite-majority Iraq continued to grow. Since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, Iran’s influence in the region has grown. Saudi Arabia has been embroiled in a series of shadow wars to reduce its influence. It can be said that Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in the Cold War just like the United States and the Soviet Union. Behind that war was a conflict of religious ideology and political interests. Diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran came to a complete standstill in 2016. Iranians attack the Saudi embassy in Tehran after executing Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimar al-Nimar. Since then, the two countries have not had diplomatic relations.
Finally, in April this year, representatives of the two countries met behind closed doors in Baghdad. And through this, the two countries started the process of normalizing diplomatic relations again. The last direct meeting between the two countries was held on September 21.
Now why are these two countries interested in normalizing relations? At one point, Mohammed bin Salman said they had no chance of negotiating with Iran. And Khomeini, the current Supreme Leader of Iran, called Mohammed bin Salman the new Hitler. But there is no such thing as a permanent enemy ally in politics or foreign policy. That is why it has brought Saudi Arabia and Iran back to the negotiating table. Prince Salman once refused to negotiate with Iran, but now he says Iran is our neighbor, we all want good and special relations with Iran.
Saudi Arabia has realized that its Western allies are short-lived. But Iran is their permanent neighbor. They have to live with Iran. The United States will not return to fight against Iran on behalf of Saudi Arabia. That is why it is logical for Iran and Saudi Arabia to have their ideological differences and different interests at the negotiating table. Saudi Arabia has been at the negotiating table with Iran for a number of reasons. The first reason is that Saudi Arabia wants to reduce its oil dependence. Prince Salman has announced Vision 2030. In order to implement Vision 2030 and get out of the oil dependent economy, we need to have good relations with our neighbors. It is not possible to achieve such goals without regional stability, He said.
Saudi Arabia also wants to emerge from the ongoing shadow war with Iran in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon to achieve regional stability. The war in Yemen in particular is now a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are unable to get out of this war, nor are they able to achieve the desired goal. Saudi Arabia must normalize relations with Iran if it is to emerge from the war in Yemen. Without a mutual understanding with Iran, Yemen will not be able to end the war. That is why Saudi Arabia wants to end the war through a peace deal with the Houthis by improving relations with Iran.
Drone strikes could also have an impact on the Saudi Aramco oil field to bring Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. Because after the drone attack, the oil supply was cut in half. The Saudis do not want Aramco to be attacked again. Also, since the Biden administration has no eye on the Middle East, it would be wise to improve relations with Iran in its own interests.
Iran will benefit the most if relations with Saudi Arabia improve. Their economy has been shaken by long-standing US sanctions on Iran. As Saudi Arabia is the largest and most powerful country in the Middle East, Iran has the potential to benefit politically as well as economically if relations with them are normal.
While Saudi Arabia will normalize relations with Iran, its allies will also improve relations with Iran. As a result, Iran’s political and trade relations with all the countries of the Saudi alliance will be better. This will give them a chance to turn their economy around again. The development of Iran’s relations with Saudi Arabia will also send a positive message to the Biden administration. It could lead to a renewed nuclear deal and lift sanctions on Iran.
Another reason is that when Saudi Arabia normalizes relations with Iran, it will receive formal recognition of Iran’s power in the Middle East. The message will be conveyed that it is not possible to turn the stick in the Middle East by bypassing Iran. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran need to be normalized for peace and stability in the Middle East.
But in this case, the United Arab Emirates and Israel may be an obstacle. The closeness that Saudi Arabia had with the UAE will no longer exist. The UAE now relies much more on Israel. There will also be some conflict of interest between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Prince Salman wants to turn Saudi into a full-fledged tourism and business hub that could pose a major threat to the UAE’s economy and make the two countries compete.
Furthermore, in order to sell arms to the Middle East, Iran must show something special. Why would Middle Eastern countries buy weapons if the Iranian offensive was stopped? During the Cold War, arms dealers forced NATO allies to buy large quantities of weapons out of fear of the Soviet Union. So it is in the Middle East. But if the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia is normal, it will be positive for the Muslim world, but it will lead to a recession in the arms market.
Turkey and Iran find soft power more difficult than hard power
The times they are a changin’. Iranian leaders may not be Bob Dylan fans, but his words are likely to resonate as they contemplate their next steps in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Lebanon, and Azerbaijan.
The same is true for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The president’s shine as a fierce defender of Muslim causes, except for when there is an economic price tag attached as is the case of China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims, has been dented by allegations of lax defences against money laundering and economic mismanagement.
The setbacks come at a time that Mr. Erdogan’s popularity is diving in opinion polls.
Turkey this weekend expelled the ambassadors of the US, Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden for calling for the release of philanthropist and civil rights activist Osman Kavala in line with a European Court of Human Rights decision.
Neither Turkey nor Iran can afford the setbacks that often are the result of hubris. Both have bigger geopolitical, diplomatic, and economic fish to fry and are competing with Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama for religious soft power, if not leadership of the Muslim world.
That competition takes on added significance in a world in which Middle Eastern rivals seek to manage rather than resolve their differences by focusing on economics and trade and soft, rather than hard power and proxy battles.
In one recent incident Hidayat Nur Wahid, deputy speaker of the Indonesian parliament, opposed naming a street in Jakarta after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the general-turned-statemen who carved modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire. Mr. Wahid suggested that it would be more appropriate to commemorate Ottoman sultans Mehmet the Conqueror or Suleiman the Magnificent or 14th-century Islamic scholar, Sufi mystic, and poet Jalaludin Rumi.
Mr. Wahid is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and a board member of the Saudi-run Muslim World League, one of the kingdom’s main promoters of religious soft power.
More importantly, Turkey’s integrity as a country that forcefully combats funding of political violence and money laundering has been called into question by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international watchdog, and a potential court case in the United States that could further tarnish Mr. Erdogan’s image.
A US appeals court ruled on Friday that state-owned Turkish lender Halkbank can be prosecuted over accusations it helped Iran evade American sanctions.
Prosecutors have accused Halkbank of converting oil revenue into gold and then cash to benefit Iranian interests and documenting fake food shipments to justify transfers of oil proceeds. They also said Halkbank helped Iran secretly transfer US$20 billion of restricted funds, with at least $1 billion laundered through the US financial system.
Halkbank has pleaded not guilty and argued that it is immune from prosecution under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because it was “synonymous” with Turkey, which has immunity under that law. The case has complicated US-Turkish relations, with Mr. Erdogan backing Halkbank’s innocence in a 2018 memo to then US President Donald Trump.
FATF placed Turkey on its grey list last week. It joins countries like Pakistan, Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen that have failed to comply with the group’s standards. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned earlier this year that greylisting would affect a country’s ability to borrow on international markets, and cost it an equivalent of up to 3 per cent of gross domestic product as well as a drop in foreign direct investment.
Mr. Erdogan’s management of the economy has been troubled by the recent firing of three central bank policymakers, a bigger-than-expected interest rate cut that sent the Turkish lira tumbling, soaring prices, and an annual inflation rate that last month ran just shy of 20 per cent. Mr. Erdogan has regularly blamed high-interest rates for inflation.
A public opinion survey concluded in May that 56.9% of respondents would not vote for Mr. Erdogan and that the president would lose in a run-off against two of his rivals, Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas and his Istanbul counterpart Ekrem Imamoglu.
In further bad news for the president, polling company Metropoll said its September survey showed that 69 per cent of respondents saw secularism as a necessity while 85.1 per cent objected to religion being used in election campaigning.
In Iran’s case, a combination of factors is changing the dynamics of Iran’s relations with some of its allied Arab militias, calling into question the domestic positioning of some of those militias, fueling concern in Tehran that its detractors are encircling it, and putting a dent in the way Iran would like to project itself.
A just-published report by the Combatting Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy West Point concluded that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) faced “growing difficulties in controlling local militant cells. Hardline anti-US militias struggle with the contending needs to de-escalate US-Iran tensions, meet the demands of their base for anti-US operations, and simultaneously evolve non-kinetic political and social wings.”
Iranian de-escalation of tensions with the United States is a function of efforts to revive the defunct 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program and talks aimed at improving relations with Saudi Arabia even if they have yet to produce concrete results.
In addition, like in Lebanon, Iranian soft power in Iraq has been challenged by growing Iraqi public opposition to sectarianism and Iranian-backed Shiite militias that are at best only nominally controlled by the state.
Even worse, militias, including Hezbollah, the Arab world’s foremost Iranian-supported armed group, have been identified with corrupt elites in Lebanon and Iraq. Many in Lebanon oppose Hezbollah as part of an elite that has allowed the Lebanese state to collapse to protect its vested interests.
Hezbollah did little to counter those perceptions when the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Lebanese Christians after fighting erupted this month between the militia and the Lebanese Forces, a Maronite party, along the Green Line that separated Christian East and Muslim West Beirut during the 1975-1990 civil war.
The two groups battled each other for hours as Hezbollah staged a demonstration to pressure the government to stymie an investigation into last year’s devastating explosion in the port of Beirut. Hezbollah fears that the inquiry could lay bare pursuit of the group’s interests at the expense of public safety.
“The biggest threat for the Christian presence in Lebanon is the Lebanese Forces party and its head,” Mr. Nasrallah warned, fuelling fears of a return to sectarian violence.
It’s a warning that puts a blot on Iran’s assertion that its Islam respects minority rights, witness the reserved seats in the country’s parliament for religious minorities. These include Jews, Armenians, Assyrians and Zoroastrians.
Similarly, an alliance of Iranian-backed Shiite militias emerged as the biggest loser in this month’s Iraqi elections. The Fateh (Conquest) Alliance, previously the second-largest bloc in parliament, saw its number of seats drop from 48 to 17.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi brought forward the vote from 2022 to appease a youth-led protest movement that erupted two years ago against corruption, unemployment, crumbling public services, sectarianism, and Iranian influence in politics.
One bright light from Iran’s perspective is the fact that an attempt in September by activists in the United States to engineer support for Iraqi recognition of Israel backfired.
Iran last month targeted facilities in northern Iraq operated by Iranian opposition Kurdish groups. Teheran believes they are part of a tightening US-Israeli noose around the Islamic republic that involves proxies and covert operations on its Iraqi and Azerbaijani borders.
Efforts to reduce tension with Azerbaijan have failed. An end to a war of words that duelling military manoeuvres on both sides of the border proved short-lived. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, emboldened by Israeli and Turkish support in last year’s war against Armenia, appeared unwilling to dial down the rhetoric.
With a revival of the nuclear program in doubt, Iran fears that Azerbaijan could become a staging pad for US and Israeli covert operations. Those doubts were reinforced by calls for US backing of Azerbaijan by scholars in conservative Washington think tanks, including the Hudson Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
Eldar Mamedov, a political adviser for the social-democrats in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, warned that “the US government should resist calls from hawks to get embroiled in a conflict where it has no vital interest at stake, and much less on behalf of a regime that is so antithetical to US values and interests.”
He noted that Mr. Aliyev has forced major US NGOs to leave Azerbaijan, has trampled on human and political rights, and been anything but tolerant of the country’s Armenian heritage.
Process to draft Syria constitution begins this week
The process of drafting a new constitution for Syria will begin this week, the UN Special Envoy for the country, Geir Pedersen, said on Sunday at a press conference in Geneva.
Mr. Pedersen was speaking following a meeting with the government and opposition co-chairs of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, who have agreed to start the process for constitutional reform.
The members of its so-called “small body”, tasked with preparing and drafting the Constitution, are in the Swiss city for their sixth round of talks in two years, which begin on Monday.
Their last meeting, held in January, ended without progress, and the UN envoy has been negotiating between the parties on a way forward.
“The two Co-Chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting for constitutional reform,” Mr. Pedersen told journalists.
“So, the new thing this week is that we will actually be starting a drafting process for constitutional reform in Syria.”
The UN continues to support efforts towards a Syrian-owned and led political solution to end more than a decade of war that has killed upwards of 350,000 people and left 13 million in need of humanitarian aid.
An important contribution
The Syrian Constitutional Committee was formed in 2019, comprising 150 men and women, with the Government, the opposition and civil society each nominating 50 people.
This larger group established the 45-member small body, which consists of 15 representatives from each of the three sectors.
For the first time ever, committee co-chairs Ahmad Kuzbari, the Syrian government representative, and Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition side, met together with Mr. Pedersen on Sunday morning.
He described it as “a substantial and frank discussion on how we are to proceed with the constitutional reform and indeed in detail how we are planning for the week ahead of us.”
Mr. Pedersen told journalists that while the Syrian Constitutional Committee is an important contribution to the political process, “the committee in itself will not be able to solve the Syrian crisis, so we need to come together, with serious work, on the Constitutional Committee, but also address the other aspects of the Syrian crisis.”
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