‘NATO regime change warmongering caused refugee crisis’, Finland’s Ahtisaari says


Drowned three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan, dead on the Turkish coast

This photo shows three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, a refugee from the war-destroyed town Kobani, dead on the Turkish coast. Aylan drowned together with his mother, his brother and other Syrian refugees.

Again and again, on this blog there has been sharp well-deserved criticism for President Erdogan of Turkey.

However, even broken clocks indicate the right time twice a day.

Even politicians who are wrong nearly all the time may be right a few times.

On 3 September 2015, it was Erdogan’s turn for that; about refugees.

Another politician criticized deservedly on this blog is former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari.

Today, it is Martti Ahtisaari’s turn to say something worthwhile; also on the refugee tragedy.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

West ‘ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria’s Assad step aside

Exclusive: Senior negotiator describes rejection of alleged proposal – since which time tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced

Julian Borger and Bastien Inzaurralde

Tuesday 15 September 2015 09.20 BST

Russia proposed more than three years ago that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, could step down as part of a peace deal, according to a senior negotiator involved in back-channel discussions at the time.

Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the second world war.

Ahtisaari held talks with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN security council in February 2012. He said that during those discussions, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, laid out a three-point plan, which included a proposal for Assad to cede power at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition.

But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.

“It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” Ahtisaari said in an interview. …

On 22 February 2012 he was sent to meet the missions of the permanent five nations (the US, Russia, UK, France and China) at UN headquarters in New York by The Elders, a group of former world leaders advocating peace and human rights that has included Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

“The most intriguing was the meeting I had with Vitaly Churkin because I know this guy,” Ahtisaari recalled. “We don’t necessarily agree on many issues but we can talk candidly. I explained what I was doing there and he said: ‘Martti, sit down and I’ll tell you what we should do.’

“He said three things: One – we should not give arms to the opposition. Two – we should get a dialogue going between the opposition and Assad straight away. Three – we should find an elegant way for Assad to step aside.”

Churkin declined to comment on what he said had been a “private conversation” with Ahtisaari. The Finnish former president, however, was adamant about the nature of the discussion.

“There was no question because I went back and asked him a second time,” he said, noting that Churkin had just returned from a trip to Moscow and there seemed little doubt he was raising the proposal on behalf of the Kremlin.

Ahtisaari said he passed on the message to the American, British and French missions at the UN, but he said: “Nothing happened because I think all these, and many others, were convinced that Assad would be thrown out of office in a few weeks so there was no need to do anything.”

While Ahtisaari was still in New York, Kofi Annan was made joint special envoy on Syria for the UN and the Arab League. Ahtisaari said: “Kofi was forced to take up the assignment as special representative. I say forced because I don’t think he was terribly keen. He saw very quickly that no one was supporting anything.”

In June 2012, Annan chaired international talks in Geneva, which agreed a peace plan by which a transitional government would be formed by “mutual consent” of the regime and opposition. However, it soon fell apart over differences on whether Assad should step down. Annan resigned as envoy a little more than a month later, and Assad’s personal fate has been the principal stumbling block to all peace initiatives since then. …

At the time of Ahtisaari’s visit to New York, the death toll from the Syrian conflict was estimated to be about 7,500. The UN believes that toll passed 220,000 at the beginning of this year, and continues to climb. The chaos has led to the rise of Islamic State. Over 11 million Syrians have been forced out of their homes.

“We should have prevented this from happening because this is a self-made disaster, this flow of refugees to our countries in Europe,” Ahtisaari said. “I don’t see any other option but to take good care of these poor people … We are paying the bills we have caused ourselves.”

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153 thoughts on “‘NATO regime change warmongering caused refugee crisis’, Finland’s Ahtisaari says

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