Sunday, 31 March 2013

Muslim fashion by homegrown Kyrgyz designers

Part of the audience (top) at last week's fashion show in Bishkek (all pictures are from and

A fashion show in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, featured a collection of colorful dresses for a unique spring 2013 collection targeted to Muslim women, who want beautiful clothes that still protect their modesty.
“I think that a woman, whether she is Muslim or Christian, has to follow fashion and her appearance should be decent, and she has to look beautiful, womanly,” Fashion Muslim Kyrgyzstan, BECHA 2013 attendee Ruhina Kozhambekova told Reuters.
Like Kozhambekova, hundreds of Kyrgyz women attended last week’s (March 25) fashion show, clapping to the pulsing beat of the music while the models flowed along the runway in long-sleeved, high-necked gowns paired with veils framing their faces.
Delicate chiffons to cotton blends to intricately designed silks were featured in the show, which presented fashions for a range of tastes -- from dressy to sporty.
 Fashion designer Mavluda Usupova even showed a line of wedding dresses.
“Not only fashionable women but all Muslims too could look beautiful. Once in her lifetime a girl gets married. Therefore you have to look beautiful to please your husband and his family,” Usupova told Reuters.
Her creations featured full skirts, bordered by lace edging and pearl details, as well as empire-waisted and full A-line forms. Some of the dresses were paired with jackets, and all of the models wore intricately decorated veils.
Organizer Aijan Akilbekova said the show was a huge success and showed that fashion could be compatible with life in Kyrgyzstan and modesty.
“Actually, it’s simply a trend for our sisters about how you can dress up according to our customs, traditions and without forgetting about the geographical conditions of our country. For example, we have a severe winter, we have a slushy autumn, we have spring, and we have summer. In our country we can't wear one dress all year long,” Akilbekova told Reuters.
Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked and mountainous country of 5.5 million that became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, is about 75 percent Muslim. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south and China to the east.
The Kyrgyz make up nearly 70% of the population, with Uzbeks accounting for about 15% and concentrated in the Ferghana Valley in the south. Russians have a significant presence in the north and in the capital, Bishkek.
A BBC country profile says “Kyrgyzstan also features in the US-Russian rivalry for control of Central Asia, as both powers have military air bases in the country, and various Kyrgyz leaders have proved adept at playing the country's competing allies off against each other.
“The U.S. established an airbase at the Manas international airport near Bishkek in late 2001 to support military operations in Afghanistan. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev threatened to close it in October 2008 after agreeing to a Russian loan. He reversed the decision when the U.S. agreed to more than triple its annual rent for the base.
“Weeks later Kyrgyzstan tentatively agreed to allow Russia to open a second military base on its territory, apparently expanding Moscow's military reach to balance the U.S. presence.
“After Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in September 2012 to write off Kyrgyzstan's debt to his country, President Almazbek Atambayev agreed to a 15-year extension to Moscow's lease on the Kant air base, but said that the lease on the US military base at Manas would not be renewed when it expires in 2014.”

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Cement and wheat at the Doha summit

By Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s analyst, author and kingpin of the impending Al Arab TV news channel writing today for pan-Arab al-Hayat
Obviously, the Doha summit did not discuss cement price rises or production shortages in the Arab world.
Nor did it dwell on the Arabs’ growing demand for wheat that their vast arable lands -- including the water-rich ones -- fail to meet.
The summit, as usual, considered the pan-Arab nation’s “fateful issues at this critical juncture,” chiefly the current Syria crisis.
It would have been useful if someone had wondered out loud, “Who will rebuild Syria?
“Can the output of Arab cement factories meet demand?
“And how can we make available tons of wheat to feed the hungry mouths in the currently critical political turmoil?”
Therein lies the importance of discussing the subject of cement and wheat in the Arab world.
It might sound odd to ask, “Who will build the New Syria?” when the Arabs have yet to find a way of stopping the destruction of Old Syria and the killings in it.
Equally odd is to ask, “Who will provide the daily 250 million bread loafs Egyptians need under their Second Republic when their politicians keep quarrelling over the Attorney General’s legitimacy?”
We better wise up, harden our hearts, ponder unemotionally and set up committees to address these issues.
A group of about 45 Syrians representing all hues of the Syrian opposition, including former officials who deserted the regime, last year set up “The Day After” workshop in Berlin in association with two institutes – one German (SWP) and another American (USIP).
They did wonderful work in planning what to do in post-Assad Syria.
They outlined the roadmap to a peaceful transition to democracy, the rule of law and security, constitution making, economic recovery and reconstruction (see Syria and “The Day After” Project for full details).
But of course “The Day After” workshop did not discuss the issue of cement, of which Old Syria produced not more than six million tons annually.
Only God knows how many months it would take Syria’s cement plants to resume production.
The Arab world’s top cement producer is Egypt, with an annual output of 48 million tons.
Saudi Arabia comes next with 42 million tons a year.
Although both countries try to expand their respective production capacities, their cement prices keep cropping up because of increasing demand for housing units in each.
Most probably local demand for Saudi cement will heat up after the Kingdom issued final regulations on real estate financing, leasing and the supervision of financial companies as it tries to ease a housing shortage by opening up its mortgage market and enacting the first home-loans law.
So who will supply cement for the Syrians if the Saudis ban exporting their cement and the Egyptians need every bit of theirs? And who will finance Syria’s reconstruction in the first place?
Syria, after all, is unlike Libya, which was also ravaged by war. But oil-rich Libya has the cash. Syria’s oil production is wanting, save for 300,000 barrels per day, part of which is exported with the revenue going to the coffers of President Bashar al-Assad and his relatives.
Moreover, destruction in Libya pales in comparison to Syria’s devastation.
Will Turkish and Saudi concerns rush to invest in the New Syria, or will the huge offshore funds held by Syrians solve the problem?
And before wondering about Syria’s prospective cement suppliers, Syrians need much time to rebuild their state institutions, draft a constitution and organize elections.
Wheat is another Arab collective concern.
Saudi Arabia, for instance, will scrap wheat growing in 2015 after absurd consumption exhausted its future generations’ non-renewable groundwater resources.
The Kingdom does not need more than three million tons of wheat a year and has all the cash to import it from Russia or Australia. But Egypt produces only half of its annual consumption of 19 million tons at a time when its net foreign currency reserves are down to $13.5 billion, barely enough to cover three months of its imports of essential goods and oil.
Also, unlike Saudi Arabia, Egypt did not build grain silos, which means storage costs are added on to its wheat prices.
Theoretically, the solution for all Arabs is in their fertile lands in Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Algeria.
Politics, however, prompted Saudi Arabia to try leasing Russian farmland to grow wheat through private companies it controls. The kingdom overlooked Algeria, whose military are far from being amenable to negotiations.
After its revolution, Egypt discovered Sudan to its south, where it plans cultivating about one million feddan (or 420,000 hectares) in the long term, once its politicians stop squabbling over the country’s Attorney General and other petty issues.
I used the metaphor of “cement and wheat” to highlight the interconnection of Arabs. Despite borders keeping us apart, our disparate customs duties, one country like Saudi Arabia supporting the cement industry and another like Egypt choosing not to, the Saudis having the experience and money to grow wheat and the Sudanese having the land, water and workforce… we are all prone to be affected by economic changes elsewhere.
The reference is chiefly to changes affecting essential commodities, such as iron, cement, wheat and fertilizers – all of which have internationally-quoted prices.
We ought to accelerate Arab economic unity plans, bring down trade barriers and focus on the economy and quality of life, which are the mainstays of the Arab Spring.
Had we helped Egypt tackle the economy before plunging into politics head on, Egypt would not have been suffocating in a seemingly open-ended political crisis.
Egypt could have done without its ridiculous cycle of protests and counter-protests, charges and counter-charges, and blows and counter-blows – all leading to the erosion of all human values, including the Egyptian citizen’s dignity.
Syria, where the revolution has yet to triumph, is also in the throes of accusations and counter-accusations with the media already evoking the strife in Egypt in order to guard against a replay of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the Syrian revolution.
Better wait for the Syrian revolution to prevail before taking on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Any cause for optimism in all this?
Yes, when “cement and wheat” top the Arab politician’s priorities.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Hollande tucks his tail on arming Syria rebels

French President François Hollande has just eaten his words on arming the Syrian opposition.
Hollande and Syrian coalition leader M. al-Khatib
He said overnight he was unsure if weapons supplied to opposition rebels would not fall into the hands of jihadists.
At the European Union summit in Brussels two weeks ago, Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron were both pressing for the relaxation of an arms embargo on Syria so that arms can flow to outgunned rebels fighting regime forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The embargo expires on June 1 and both leaders said it should be allowed to lapse.
Speaking in Brussels on March 15, the French president said he had received guarantees from the Syrian opposition that any future arms delivered to them will end up in the right hands.
“In terms of delivering weapons … to have the best answer the opposition must give all necessary guarantees. It's because we have been given those that we can envisage the lifting of the embargo. We have the certainty on the use of these weapons,” he said two weeks ago.
But Hollande backpedaled in his Thursday night interview on France 2 television, telling anchorman David Pujadas: “There is today an embargo, and we respect it. The Russians violate the embargo, and that’s a problem.
“In the past two years, almost 100,000 people were killed in Syria – 100,000. There’s a radicalizing civil war and jihadists are seizing the opportunity to batter Bashar and accumulate credit points for the future.
“No arms can be delivered when the embargo lapses, which is end-May, if we cannot ascertain that such weapons will be used by legitimate (regime) opponents only and held back from any terrorist enterprise.
“For the moment, we don’t have that guarantee. We won’t do it (deliver weapons) so long as there is no certainty the opposition controls the situation.”
Muhammad Ballout, writing today for the pro-Assad Beirut daily as-Safir, says Hollande’s remarks last night are “light years away” from his statement two weeks before in Brussels.
Ballout attributes the French president’s change of heart on arming the Syrian opposition to news that many weapons supplied to rebels in Libya have since turned up in the fighting in Mali.
Another reason cited by Ballout is a report in the French satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné quoting French Minister Laurent Fabius as telling a council of ministers meeting, “We have to be extra cautious before arming the Syrian opposition because (the head of Syria’s interim government) Ghassan Hitto is close to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
So it looks like Hollande subscribing to Barack Obama’s “paralyzing caution” on Syria.
Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and author of “The Syrian Rebellion” and other books, yesterday described How Obama is Failing Syria” in a think piece for Bloomberg, writing in part:
In the matter of the Syrian rebellion, the U.S. hasn’t even “led from behind.” The Obama administration has pioneered a new role for a great power: We are now the traffic controllers, directing the flow of weapons to the rebels.
The money isn’t ours; it is Qatari and Saudi and Libyan. The planes hauling the weapons are Jordanian, Qatari and Saudi. And Syria’s neighbors, principally Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, run the risks.
Our officials have opinions on Syria, but no one in the Greater Middle East can divine them. We want Bashar al-Assad gone -- our president said so in August 2011 -- a full five months into a brutal war. Then again, through winks and nods, we suggest that the alternative to Assad might be worse than his despotism.
No sooner do we make one definitive statement against the dictator than we hedge it with an invitation to both the dictatorship and the opposition to come to the negotiating table. Great crimes are committed by the Syrian regime, but we are full of worries about the jihadists who have converged on that country. For American officials, the lengths of the fighters’ beards, one Syrian opposition leader lamented, are more important than the massacres.
Barack Obama is a cool, cerebral man. It is his defining image. History won’t rush him or force his hand. If George W. Bush was the “decider,” his successor is the questioner who “wrestles” with decisions…

Thursday, 28 March 2013

After Charles and Camilla, SamCam visits refugees

Prince Charles and Camilla with Syrian refugees in Jordan (Photos from The Daily Mail)

Samantha Cameron with Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Photos from The Daily Mail)
Samantha Cameron, the British Prime Minister’s wife and a mother of three, travelled to Lebanon on Tuesday for a barefoot visit to a Syrian refugee camp as an ambassador for Save the Children.
Two weeks before, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Prince Charles has since made significant donations to the British Red Cross Syria Crisis and the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeals.
The Daily Mail gave extensive coverage to both visits.
Covering Mrs. Cameron’s first solo foreign trip, Max Hastings wrote in part:
Barefoot and sitting cross-legged on the floor, Samantha Cameron is listening to mothers telling stories about their children.
But in this mothers’ group, the tales are of grief, fear and terrible loss. They are some of the most shocking stories she has ever heard…
After visiting refugees, the woman who rarely makes public pronouncements warned that innocent childhoods were “being smashed to pieces” in the conflict.
Mrs. Cameron said,  “As a mother, it is horrifying to hear the harrowing stories from the children I met today. No child should ever experience what they have.
With every day that passes, more children and parents are being killed, more innocent childhoods are being smashed to pieces.”
Mrs. Cameron, who has been an ambassador for Save the Children since 2011, visited a camp in the Bekaa Valley on Tuesday and spoke to women and children caught up in the violence.
Visibly emotional after speaking to a mother whose young son was killed by a sniper in front of her other six children, she said, ‘It’s so shocking. It’s difficult to take in.
“Her three-year-old son was shot by a sniper at a checkpoint – a sniper aiming at a car full of seven children. I mean, it’s justyou just can’t imagine why that could happen.”
The grieving mother had told Mrs. Cameron, “I was driving with my children, trying to escape Syria, when the shooting started. How can anyone shoot at a car with seven children in it?
“They shot my baby and he died. His brothers and sisters saw this happen.” 
At a health clinic at the camp, Mrs. Cameron held the hand of a little disabled boy. Because of constant shelling and sniper fire, his mother struggles to find healthcare for him.
An estimated three million people have fled their homes in Syria. One million have made it to neighboring countries but two million are trapped in the warzone.
Save The Children chief executive Justin Forsyth, who accompanied Mrs. Cameron, said, “Samantha Cameron’s support helps draw attention to the plight of children caught up in this terrifying conflict. Without more help, and quickly, we risk losing a generation of Syria’s children.”
Covering Prince Charles and Camilla’s earlier visit to the King Abdullah Park refugee camp in Jordan, The Daily Mail’s royal correspondent Rebecca English wrote in part:
As they picked their way through the dust and rubble, the shock on their faces was evident.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (March 13) visited a refugee camp in Jordan for men, women and children fleeing the brutalities of civil war in Syria.
Just seven miles south of the border at Ramtha, King Abdullah Park is home to almost a thousand desperate and displaced, more than half of which are children.
As he met one man who had twice been imprisoned and tortured for writing anti-government poetry, grim-faced Charles asked: 'Do you see any end to this horror?'
The Prince and the Duchess first stopped at a Portacabin where half a dozen women were knitting and making handicrafts, which will be sold to raise funds for the refugees.
Despite not having a common language, Camilla immediately bonded with the ladies as she gave them a thumb up, prompting them to laugh and smile.
'Have you always knitted?' she asked through a translator.
One woman told her that she had been in the camp with her children for seven months, another for a year and a half.
The Duchess listened intently and admired their handicrafts.
Afterwards she told the Mail, “Some of their stories are so harrowing but what I find so remarkable is their strength of spirit and the way they are so cheerful despite their circumstances.
“I think that is women for you. They have got their children to look after. They have to survive.
“But to think that many of them don't even know whether their husbands are alive or dead... it is just awful.”
The couple was then introduced to Na’eem, 55, who fled his home in Della with his wife and five children aged between 22 and six last July.
Na’eem told the prince how he was twice imprisoned and tortured by Syrian forces -- once for two and a half months -- for writing anti-government poetry. He had cigarettes and cigars stubbed out on his body, the scars of which were still visible.
“When they arrested me there were rapes and all sorts of abuse in the jails,” he said. “They tied me up and blindfolded me and doing things to my body.”
…The couple also spent time in a children's area where youngsters are encouraged to deal with the trauma of what they have seen by drawing. Many of the childish scribbles horrifically depict guns and dead bodies.
One, 12-year-old Emira, whose name means Princess, said: “My father is in prison but sometimes my mother says he is dead. I don't know whether I will see him again.”
Her words clearly moved the prince, who said afterwards: “Many of these children have been traumatized by the terrors they have witnessed before they came here.
“Some of them have lost their parents and had horrendous experiences and it is remarkable what all these wonderful NGOS are doing to deal with this unbelievably heartbreaking situation.
“I think the thing that has come out of this is just how unbelievable generous the Jordanian people are, who are truly remarkable.
“The generosity is extraordinary but it's putting more and more strain on food and hospitals, so clearly the Jordanians need more assistance and help to be able to cope with this immense challenge.”
Camilla added, “Seeing all those children some of whom will have lost their parents and been adopted by others, I feel it is quite heartbreaking.”
…Sava Mobaslat, 41, the program director for Save the Children in Jordan, said the 600 children at the camp are bussed to local schools to continue their education but go to the children’s center every day for therapy sessions.
The children are encouraged to draw what they have seen, because they often do not have the vocabulary to express their feelings and experiences.
Mobaslat said, “We use drawing, drama, music and arts as an alternative form of expression through which they can express their anxiety and frustration to help them get over it.
“They draw guns, bodies, a lot of red to begin with and gradually they go back to drawing the garden in their backyard.
“The timeframe for their recovery varies from child to child, it takes longer for someone who has witnessed the death of a parent or sibling. We have one girl who was walking to school and saw it bombed with her siblings inside and it took her a long time to get over that image.
“Today they are drawing nice images from home, something from their past they can link to their future.
“They understand that it’s only education that can help them go home and rebuild what was ruined…”

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The horrors after the Doha summit picture

Suhair Atassi (top) seen fronting for Moaz al-Khatib (above) at the Arab summit 

Symbolism was the memorable part of the just-concluded Arab summit in Doha.
The symbolism of Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib being asked to take over President Bashar al-Assad’s seat and address the Arab heads of state in the name of the Syrian people.
And the symbolism of Suhair Atassi briefly deputizing for Khatib later and becoming the first Arab woman to chair an Arab League summit delegation.
Writing in Arabic on what was real and what was metaphorical in Doha, Ghassan Charbel, editor-in-chief of pan-Arab al-Hayat, says the image summed up the summit. And yesterday’s image was “unmatched, conclusive and cruel.”
Seeing the Syrian opposition delegation meet huge applause as it made its way to its country’s seat at the summit was unusual.
Witnessing Moaz al-Khatib seated behind the revolution flag, instead of the decades-old Syrian Republic flag we knew, was extraordinary.
Seeing no walkout from the conference room by any delegation leader was equally remarkable.
It is not in the habit of Arab summits to send that sort of message to a member-state’s regime. The Doha summit did not suffice with keeping Syria’s seat vacant but went further and gave it to a delegation representing the Syrian revolution.
The remarkable thing is that the image pertains to an Arab League heavyweight and founding member-state that used to have the last word on matters concerning Lebanon and Palestine.
The image carried a few connotations.
It was a sharp response to Lakhdar Brahimi’s last visit to Damascus.
It evoked the unimaginable human and material losses inflicting by the regime’s military machine on cities and villages and their residents.
And it recalled Russia and Iran’s persistent backing of the regime at the risk of triggering regional and international face-offs liable to dismember or destroy what remains of Syria.
The image came in the context of a growing belief among Arab and Western decision-makers that the Syrian regime will turn down any political settlement unless forced. This explains the (summit) resolve to redress the balance of forces in favor of the revolution. The resolve translates into resuming the funding and arming of opposition forces and continuing to de-legitimize the regime. That’s what can be read into yesterday’s image.
The image came as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was launching increasingly audacious attacks on regime forces in the country’s south, thus knocking at the door of the regime’s capital, and shelling the heart of Damascus almost daily.
What did the other sides read into yesterday’s image?
We have to wait and see what Damascus infers from Khatib heading the Syria delegation to the summit. Does Damascus have options other than the one it is using?
What will Tehran deduce from the image coming, as it did, when the Saudis were saying they had arrested a spy ring linked to Iran’s intelligence services? Will it perceive the image as a relentless drive to root out its position in Syria and block its route to Lebanon? Will it deduce that retreat or a change of course is behind time?
And what is Hezbollah reading into the image? Does it feel Lebanon can take more meddling by its men in the Syria fighting?
What does Nouri al-Maliki notice in the image after choosing to watch it from Baghdad?
And what will Moscow detect in the image after Khatib said the opposition is looking forward to claim Syria’s seat at the United Nations and other international organizations?
Another warranted question is: How will the Syrian opposition build on yesterday’s success? Will it be tempted to go for the kill and try a knockout against the regime? Or will it choose to redress the balance on the ground and keep alive the chance of Syria’s components continuing to coexist? And will the revolution amplify yesterday’s achievement by closing ranks, ending internal splits and shutting out roving fighters?
Syria watchers are seriously worried lest the next image turns out to be bleaker than the one that preceded yesterday’s.
Some of them are anticipating a terrible and ruinous battle in Damascus that would set off a new wave of refugees and rivers of blood and funerals. They say what we’ve seen so far, which is terrible, is only a small sample of what’s in store.
That will most likely be the case. The Syrian revolution has entered its most difficult and dangerous phase. The neighboring countries are buckling up in expectation of the tremor.
In face of the pending horrors, the adversaries would be well-advised to keep the phone numbers of Lakhdar Brahimi handy.
They might need him to certify the change and check the losses and outrages.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Khatib: I asked Kerry for Patriots to shield N. Syria

From top, Qatar's emir, Khatib leading the opposition delegation, and seated in Syria's chair 

Talking today from Bashar al-Assad’s seat at the Arab summit in Doha, Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib said he asked Secretary of State John Kerry for U.S. forces “not to fight but to defend northern Syria” with Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
Kerry “promised to consider the matter,” Khatib said without elaborating.
Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, opened the two-day summit by naming Khatib and Interim Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto to lead their combined team to Syria’s assigned seats at the conference.
Khatib went in front and sat in what would have been Syrian President Assad’s chair before addressing the heads of state in the Syrian people’s name.
His address came within an hour or so of a stirring opening speech by Sheikh Hamad in which he pledged to contribute $250 million to a US$1 billion fund for the preservation of (East) Jerusalem as a capital for the future Palestinian state.
The Qatari head of state also proposed an Arab mini-summit in Cairo for the sole purpose of spawning a Palestinian reconciliation between Gaza and the West Bank.
On Syria specifically, Sheikh Hamad said:
We welcome the participation of the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the Syrian Interim Government in our summit.
They are undoubtedly worthy of this representation after earning popular legitimacy at home and wide support abroad, and for the reason that they have assumed a historic role in leading the revolution and preparing to build a New Syria.
Grave and tragic conditions in sisterly Syria have taken a catastrophic turn over the past two years, leading to indescribable tragedies and crimes. Holding one’s tongue about these and about the suffering of the Syrian people in Syria and of the refugees in host countries is in itself a crime.
From the outset, we in the State of Qatar built our position on a set of constants:
-- The immediate cessation of killings and violence against civilians the safeguarding of sisterly Syria’s territorial integrity and popular unity
-- Fulfillment of the will of the Syrian people on the transfer of the power
-- Support Arab and international efforts and political solutions that achieve the Syrian people’s willpower and legitimate aspirations.
It is unfortunate the Syrian regime chose to enter into a military confrontation with its people, turning down all appeals for serious reform and all Arab political initiatives until the catastrophe reached the stage where the much-loved Syrian people would accept nothing less than a peaceful transition of power, as endorsed by the Arab League resolution dated July 22, 2012.
History will attest as to who stood by the Syrian people in their ordeal and who let them down.
We reiterate our call on the UN Security Council to uphold rights and justice, and pass a resolution ordering an immediate cessation of the bloodshed in Syria and bringing to international justice those responsible for the crimes committed against its people.
We renew our commitment to keep providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and urge all countries of the world to do so.
We underscore the importance of convening an international conference under UN auspices for the reconstruction of Syria right after the transfer of power as willed by the Syrian people.
I find it important to repeat that we are in favor of a political solution that spares peoples’ blood and lives, presuming that a solution does not put the clock back.
I see the great Syria rising from the rubble soon to rebuild its glory.
Speaking about half-an-hour later, Khatib told the summit:
  • Ours started as a peaceful revolution, but it was met by a heartless man’s hellfire... Syrians are the only people on earth whose breadlines are bombed by warplanes.
  • The Syrian people cannot coexist with the Assad mafia.
  • Whereas we welcome a peace settlement, the regime rejects any solution to the Syria crisis. I suggested talking to Syrian regime representatives in return for the release of prisoners, but the regime shot down the offer.
  • The Syrian people initiated their revolution. They alone will determine its course.
  • Does it take years to recognize our people’s right to self-defense?
  • Occupying Syria’s seat (at the summit) is part of the recovery of the Syrian people’s legitimate rights. We also demand regaining Syria’s seat at the United Nations and other international organizations and the repossession of Syrian (regime’s frozen) assets.
  • Interim Prime Minister Hitto has our full confidence… We also plan to transform the Syrian National Coalition into an all-inclusive National Congress.
  • The Syrian revolution is being undermined on three pretenses: minorities, terrorism and fear of the unknown.
  • The pretense of minorities does not hold water. You need to ask the Lebanese about how the Syrian regime divided all Lebanese sects to rule Lebanon (for 30 years). And who killed Ghazi Kanaan (Syria’s long-time Alawite security chief in Lebanon)? Haven’t Syrian Alawites just concluded a two-day conference in Cairo, which accused the regime of working on turning sectarian zealotry into bloodshed?
  • Regarding the pretense of terrorists being in rebel ranks, what do you call the Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah men fighting in regime ranks? And what about the regime’s two-year reign of terror?
  • A propos fears as to who rules Syria after regime change, my answer is that Syrians alone will decide who rules them and how. It is no one else’s decision.
  • The United States should play a bigger role in helping stop the bloodletting in Syria. I asked Mr. Kerry to extend the Patriots’ umbrella to cover the Syrian north and he promised to consider the matter. We are still waiting for a NATO decision to protect people's lives -- not to fight, but to protect lives.