Monday, 19 August 2019

Diplomat: ČR is last Western state in contact with Assad

ČTK |
6 October 2015

Prague, Oct 5 (CTK) - The Czech Republic is the last Western country still to talk to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, as it is the last EU country whose embassy in Damascus remains open, also representing the USA, Hynek Kmonicek, head of the Czech Presidential Office's foreign section, says in weekly Tyden out Monday.

The weekly compares the conflict-ridden Syria to a patient whose "disease" and its "treatment" is being consulted by powers as well as states in the given region, and asks whether they take Damascus's wish into account.

"In this respect, a big role is played by Russia. It has a base in Tartus, and its national interest is to maintain relations with Bashar Assad," Kmonicek is quoted as saying.

"The Czechs are the last country to talk to Assad on behalf of the West...Though it is clear that we are a weight class different [from big powers]. We are a sort of a 'B Channel,' a silent postman who works reliably without knowing the content of the letters," Kmonicek says.

"Let's admit that the ongoing process will result in the birth of a new, different Syria without Assad. The question, however, is when, how and where President Assad will end," Kmonicek says.

He indicates that Middle-East politicians practically never retire but keep their post until their death.

As a result, Assad is far from motivated to launch a policy of compromise. His fate, the physical fate of his family and the security guarantees for the whole Alawi community are the key factors in the negotiations, Kmonicek said.

Commenting on Czech President Milos Zeman's previous statement that Assad and his non-Muslim opposition may reach reconciliation in Prague, Kmonicek said the negotiations will not be conducted in Prague, but their result might be signed there.

The talks have been held in Geneva in four expert commission. Parallel talks have been underway between Moscow and Washington, with regional players such as Israel and Saudi Arabia being involved, he said.

The talks should result in a test of an agreement between the Syrian government and the moderate opposition. Of course, it is very unclear who is who on the side of the opposition. Each player in the process, from Assad to Israel, defines the opposition differently. Each of the negotiating countries has its own favourite in Syria, whom it supports for the sake of its own domestic interests, which, however, may have nothing to do with Syria, Kmonicek says.

The expected text should outline a way towards a Syrian government of national consensus that would rule until the next elections. It should recognise the opposition's share in power, this is crucial, Kmonicek said.

After being completed in Geneva and backed by all players, the text, which the Syrians call the Prague Declaration, could be signed in Prague, at a ceremony moderated by the U.N., Kmonicek said.

The idea was first presented by Zeman on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York at the end of September.

"Prague does not have any ambition to join the negotiations. We are the messenger and the host of the closing ceremony," he added.

To Syria, the Czech Republic is now the country that represents the USA but is not the USA itself, he said.

"We talk to all [in Syria]. They used to view Czechoslovakia as 'the Switzerland of the socialist system," and this image persists...Emotions and traditions of bilateral relations also play a role. Simply, the Czech position is balanced. We are a silent, reasonable postman who does not read foreign letters but takes a position on their content and is not afraid to tell it on request," Kmonicek told Tyden.

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