Don't worsen Syria crisis

Updated: 2013-03-19 07:43

(China Daily)

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Two years on and the crisis in Syria has evolved into a huge humanitarian disaster and brought the country to the verge of collapse. The spillovers from the crisis are drawing increasing concern from the region and beyond. On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council underscored its grave concern about arms trafficking and repeated weapons fire across the Lebanon-Syria border. The world should guard against the big power manipulation that is turning the crisis into a proxy war.

France and Britain have been trying to persuade their European partners to lift an arms embargo so they can supply weapons to Syria's rebels. They failed to gain the support of the rest of Europe during the European Union's weekend meeting, but with the backing of the Untied States the two powers have hinted they will go ahead anyway.

Earlier this month, Washington pledged direct aid to the political opposition in Syria for the first time. This included food and medical supplies and providing an extra $60 million in nonlethal assistance. Its European allies have apparently got the message and are eager to beef up their support to the rebels in Syria so that the opposition can depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad quicker.

Some in the US are pushing it to go even further in aiding the rebels. Representative Eliot Engel is scheduled to introduce a bill on Monday that would authorize Washington to provide "limited lethal equipment" to carefully vetted members of the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, the first batch of 300 Syrian rebels taught by US army and intelligence officers in Jordan are returning to Syria to fight.

In a move that marks a departure from dialogue with the Syrian government, Syria's opposition coalition is meeting in Istanbul on Monday and Tuesday to select their first prime minister.

All these developments are worrying signs that it will be difficult to defuse the crisis peacefully. According to UN estimates, the protracted crisis has resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 people and pushed another million to seek shelter in neighboring countries.

The Syria issue is now at a critical juncture. Any maneuvering to create a war by proxy is irresponsible and will result in more bloodshed and further imperil regional peace and stability.

The international community should relentlessly push for a political resolution to the crisis.

(China Daily 03/19/2013 page9)