RIGHT: The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani with US Secretary of State John Kerry at Al Wajba Palace yesterday. LEFT: The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani and Kerry holding a joint press conference.
DOHA: There is a change in the position of the international community and the US on the Syrian conflict but if Syrian rebels had been armed earlier it would have saved many lives and destruction, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani said here yesterday.
Addressing a joint press conference with the visiting US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the Prime Minister said that the proposed transitional government in Syria should be for a limited period to avoid procrastination by the Syrian regime which has already turned down many Arab initiatives.
“The regime adopts tactics to protract the crisis to effect a change in the international community’s position or to achieve gains in the battlefield,” said the Prime Minister. On fears that weapons supplied to the opposition in the Arab Spring countries would fall into the hands of extremists, he said the same was said when Qatar supported Libyan rebels in the early days of the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi.
“The West listens to talk about terrorism and some parties are exploiting the issue. Only people have the right to choose their leaders,” said the Prime Minister.
“The longer the Syrian crisis persists the more extremist groups are attracted... The danger lies in the actions of the regimes that kill civilians….Bashar Al Assad now is the terrorist because it was he who started killing his own people,” he added.
He noted that the recent Geneva declaration by the Friends of Syria called for transfer of power to a transitional government with full authority. The Prime Minister said that “with each day more people are killed, and this problem could have been solved much quicker but President Al Assad decided to do it his way.”
The US Secretary of State said that the question is whether the weapons are going to the right people, referring to moderates. “You can’t guarantee that one weapon or another will fall in the wrong hands but the Prime Minister shares the belief that we need to do what we need to do rapidly,” he stated.
Kerry was on his first visit to Qatar as Secretary of State and on the last leg of a trip that included stops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Other issues discussed included the Arab Spring and the Middle East peace process.
After his meeting with the Prime Minister, Kerry met with the Emir and the Heir Apparent.
Kerry disapproved of the interference of Iran and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, and the terrorist network Al Qaeda and related groups in the Syrian conflict. The Geneva initiative, which pushes for the transfer of power in Syria and the formation of a transitional government, could be supported both by the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran, said the US diplomat.Kerry stated that Qatar and the US have worked very hard to strengthen international sanctions. At the same time, “we need to ensure that our support strengthens the moderate opposition, the Syrian people have suffered a lot, with a level of brutality that is shocking.”
The US diplomat added that America has worked hard to identify the moderate Syrian opposition.
“We have greater guarantees that weapons are going directly to the Syrian opposition”, he added. “The (Syrian) President has responded with missiles and are trying to subjugate people. The Syrian opposition will choose who will represent them. It’s a reasonable way to end the violence and allow people of the country to decide,” he stated.
Regarding the situation in Bahrain, Kerry said that the conversation with the Prime Minister about this issue was very constructive. “The foreign minister said they are making progress, we are working to continue that dialogue. He assured me they are going to continue in good faith, I look forward to some positive results,” he added.
Earlier, the Prime Minister welcomed the visit by John Kerry to Qatar, saying: “This is not his first visit, but his first after assuming his new post as Secretary of State , and we know him very well and we are aware of his ability to do the requirements of the job and that he would represent his country in the best way.”
On the Middle East peace process, the Premier said that the peace process had passed through serious problems since the Madrid Conference 20 years ago, noting that there was at times a feeling that something positive might occur and other times we see that there was procrastination and thus it had become just a process, and not a final solution to achieve peace.
“If there is no agreement on setting a specific timetable for the end of this process, I think there would be a problem and a loss of hope. He expressed optimism about John Kerry’s views on the Palestinian issue, saying that this issue has become a priority for the US and that. John Kerry is interested personally in this file.”
He expressed belief that Kerry is able to reach a solution. “For our part, we will work to help the US through the Arab Peace Initiative Committee in order to reach a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue,” said the Prime Minister.