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Talk by H.E. Dr. Fayssal Mekdad, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Syrian Arab Republic

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  • November 18, 2022
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (MP-IDSA) organised a Talk by H.E. Dr. Fayssal Mekdad, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Syrian Arab Republic, on “Developments in Syria and the Region, & India-Syria Relations” on 18 November 2022. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General MP-IDSA, delivered the welcome remarks and moderated the session.

    Executive Summary

    H.E. Dr. Fayssal Mekdad offered a brief review of the present situation in Syria, highlighting the challenges posed by terrorist groups and the constraints faced by the present government. He also spoke at length about ways Western interference has destabilised the region and how unilateral Western sanctions continue to undermine Syria’s reconstruction efforts today. He concluded his talk by suggesting deeper cooperation with India to combat terrorism and urged the international community to unify efforts to fight the menace of terrorism.

    Detailed Report

    The session began with Amb. Chinoy extending a warm welcome to H.E. Dr. Fayssal Mekdad and other participants who joined the event. In his welcome remarks, Amb. Chinoy made observations on Syria’s rich civilisational and cultural heritage and the deep historical linkages between India and Syria. He stated that over the years, ties between the two countries have been nurtured through regular high-level visits and India has been one of Syria’s key developmental partners. Further, India hopes to do more with Syria, especially in capacity building projects. Highlighting some of India’s recent endeavours in the field of humanitarian assistance to Syria, Amb. Chinoy informed that New Delhi has played a crucial role in helping Syria to meet its food, health and developmental needs during the period of crisis. Also, India has extended support towards Syria’s human resource development by providing educational scholarships to students and providing training to Syrian diplomats. He stated that Syria’s devastation is a reminder to the rest of the international community of the need to respect national boundaries and sovereignty, and the dangers posed by radical ideologies and terrorist organisations. He added that India hopes to see a peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the decade-long conflict through a Syrian-owned dialogue, involving all the parties to the conflict.

    Drawing attention to the larger international situation, Amb. Chinoy stated that the past few years have witnessed major changes in the global strategic landscape. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been compounded by great power competition and major power rivalry which is spilling over to diverse areas from trade, technology to ideology. He highlighted that as India takes on the presidency of the G20, New Delhi will endeavour to work together to address the security challenges faced by the international community and India is committed to striving for the benefit of the Global South. Amb. Chinoy ended his address by emphasising on the dangers of conflict and the need to recommit to strengthening diplomacy and resolving disputes through peaceful dialogue and negotiations.

    Dr. Mekdad stated that the situation in Syria is improving and the victory is not only for Syria against terrorism but for all humanity. However, if the destructive force of terrorism succeeds again in Syria, the entire international community will suffer. Linking the Syrian conflict to the Arab Spring, he contended that the violence and the political instability caused by the Arab Spring were planned by the Muslim Brotherhood, certain Western countries and Turkey. Contrary to Western media propaganda of the Arab Spring being the solution to the problems faced by the Arab world, the event was a geopolitical change effected by the West to achieve its political needs. He elaborated that the West mislead Arab people and the international community with promises of democracy and freedom, however, the US and its allies have not been able to stabilise the countries where they engineered regime change.

    With regard to the Syrian conflict, Dr. Mekdad stated that while terrorists and insurgents infiltrated into the country through Turkey, the US and Europe accused Syria of human rights violations and blocked the Syrian Government’s access to the international media. They also falsely accused Syria of using chemical weapons against its own population. Moreover, at present, parts of Syria are occupied by Turkey and Western forces who are not only fuelling separatism but also stealing Syria’s natural resources like oil and natural gas. He expressed the view that although the West has made significant contributions towards developing the ideas of democracy and human rights, they are now politicising these principles for their own interests. Highlighting the crippling impact of Western sanctions on the Syrian economy and society, Dr. Mekdad suggested that the US was committing human rights violations by denying Syrian people access to basic food and health amenities.

    He concluded his talk by appreciating India’s past humanitarian assistance and continuing efforts towards supporting Syria. He offered Syrian cooperation to India for combating terrorism. He emphasised that terrorism is an international threat which should never be tolerated. As an essential measure towards combating terrorism, Dr. Mekdad suggested that civil institutions should be empowered to play a more influential role.

    Following Dr. Mekdad’s speech, Amb. Chinoy highlighted two key takeaways from his address. He observed that the international community needs to unite in the fight against terrorism by rising above the divisive politics and ideologies of the day; and secondly, the world needs a big dose of humanity and a moral compass to guide it into the future.

    The Talk was followed by a lively Q&A session. Responding to a question on the phase of reconstruction in Syria and the feasibility of the infrastructure project connecting Iranian ports to Syrian and Lebanese ports on the Mediterranean, Dr. Mekdad affirmed that the three countries are working together to strengthen economic cooperation, however, the US presence in the south of Syria is thwarting infrastructure development that could benefit Syria and the neighbouring countries. Another participant made a query about the Syrian Government’s plans to counter the spread of radical ideologies within Syria. Dr. Mekdad stated that Syria is trying to combat it by promoting education in schools and universities and empowering civil institutions in the country. To a question on the status of the Astana process, Dr. Mekdad responded by stating that the Astana process has taken the negotiations in a good direction and it will confer again with Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Syrian delegation and observer countries meeting for negotiations.

    The session ended with a Vote of Thanks by the Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd).

    Report prepared by Ms. Mayuri Banerjee, Research Analyst, MP-IDSA.