September 22-21 The Conference of the Chairmen of Parliaments of the European countries took place in Strasbourg. Ivan Melnikov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, First Deputy Chairman of the CC CPRF addressed the conference on behalf of the Russian Parliament.
The events in the Middle East and North Africa often called “the Arab Spring” merit serious attention and profound analysis.
For more than a year and a half the region has been experiencing profound transformations whose consequences will be long felt. Diplomats, as behooves them, are sparing in making their assessments and stating their positions. Our parliamentary discussions make it possible to take a broader view and to reflect together.
I am convinced that the new situation in the Arab world cannot be seen separately from major world processes. We will only be able to understand the nature of what is happening if we think about the model of globalization which has been implemented on the planet for two decades already, generating ever new problems.
That model is based on the concept of the unipolar world, the idea of free movement of people, information, goods and capital. Sovereignty ceases to play the central role and is giving way to the priority of human rights. The powers of national bodies are being steadily transferred to supranational bodies.
The European Union with its developed institutions has in many ways become a laboratory for this model. Even these institutions do not easily or successfully cope with such challenges. This became particularly apparent against the background of the symptoms of the financial and economic crisis. One can imagine the incredible difficulties facing other peoples. It is becoming clear that the world and even Europe are too diverse politically and in terms of difference of civilizations to fit into a single model.
Unfortunately, this was not immediately understood by all. Some choose to ignore this even today. The liberal values of Western democracy have suddenly become the criterion in assessing the activities of the authorities in the Arab states, a universal thermometer. Several countries have claimed the right to decide where democracy is proper and where it is not. Their conclusions sometimes are tantamount to a verdict. Instead of the Westphalian system that gave priority to state sovereignty the practice of “humanitarian interventions” is being introduced under the slogan of protecting human rights. No wonder many are asking the logical question: why are the “Arab revolutions” following one another in rapid succession and who manipulates these processes?
Colleagues, undoubtedly, every country has its internal political problems which are very acute in a whole number of states. The ruling regimes in the Middle East and North Africa have in many ways prepared the ground for the unrest that we have been witnessing there. In some countries transformations began belatedly. In some other countries superficial reforms caused destabilization of traditional Arab societies. A young generation has come along that expects a more rapid improvement of the quality of life. The situation is compounded by the sharp rise of food prices after a severe drought two years ago.
Even so, the world community must not dictate to the people of independent states what path to choose. It should work towards peaceful resolution of complicated conflict situations. The Russian Federation has adhered to such policy from the start. We welcome the striving of the Middle East people for a better life and broader social and economic rights. But we come out for non-violent evolutionary change which should not be achieved at the cost of civilian lives, privation and destruction.
We see some gruesome examples of a different development of events, all that happened in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. We remember that intervention by force was used in the name of the ideals of goodness, justice and democracy. As a result, conflicts became more protracted and the number of victims increased.
I would like to draw your attention to an important fact. Practice shows that attempts to put the stake on one or the other side to a conflict, to impose one’s values on a different civilization are counter-productive. Sooner or later it makes the perspective of justice and democracy more remote. We are witnessing these trends in the Arab world today. Sooner or later they may come to pose a danger not only to the balance of forces in the region, but also to Europe.
There is a good opportunity today to use a different approach to the Syrian case. The conflict that has been dragging on since March 2011 has already claimed 17,000 lives, and that is only the official toll. One cannot ignore the fact that the Syrian regime enjoy considerable support among the people, otherwise it would have long been toppled during this prolonged period.
As representatives of national parliaments, in working out our assessments and recommendations, we should be guided not only by the foreign policies of our respective states, but also by the interests of our voters.
Speaking about Russia, a poll taken about a month ago has revealed that a majority, almost 50%, describe the situation as ”a provocation by other countries in order to strengthen their influence in the region and to weaken Syria.” Only 3% of respondents come out for military intervention. Perhaps the balance of opinions in other European countries is not so striking. But I am sure that in any case those who favour external interference are in the minority.
Unfortunately, the media often misrepresent Russia’s position. One hears that Russia allegedly supports the Bashar Assad regime to further its military and economic interests.
Colleagues, all countries have their interests. But in the event the stakes are higher than any specific results and that applies to everyone: Russia is upholding established international law without which the world will be guided only by the “might is right” principle. One cannot put out a fire by pouring petrol on it. A solution must be searched and found within the constitutional framework, through national dialogue.
It is the task of the international community to seek to create conditions for that. If the Arab League, called upon to protect the interests of Arabs, failed to cope with that task, this can be done by the United Nations and its Security Council. The mistakes committed by the League of Nations in its time must not be repeated. Their price was too high.
In the current complicated situation, the uncompromising attitude of our partners at the UN Security Council is a huge problem. Many Western leaders and the media insist that Russia should reappraise its position. However, the United States and those in Europe who supported them have more than once acted in their own way. Did they always achieve what they had declared? The time has come to take a step in each other’s direction and reach a consensus that rules out military operations. It should be based on the following steps.
First. It is necessary to stop supplying arms to the conflict zone. Weapons continue to be delivered, which means that some quarters want to see things remaining as they are. This problem can be solved fairly quickly if various states pool their efforts.
Second. An end to violence. That would become possible if all the participants in the discussion work to organize talks between the Syrian Government and the rebels.
Third. It is necessary to guarantee security for all the parties to the internal political process before starting to develop practical steps to restore the internal order in Syria. The national forces adhering to democracy and opposing extremism and terrorism must be given an opportunity to start a dialogue with a view to transforming the country’s political and socio-economic systems.
This scenario would solve two man tasks: stop the bloodshed and secure change. Of course the work of Syrian information channels must be immediately normalized and their broadcasts to Arab countries resumed. The companies’ refusal to transmit Syrian broadcasts will hardly be conducive to creating a full picture of what is happening in the region.
We are contemporaries of momentous events. On the agenda is the issue of changing the paradigm of world development in order to ensure that the interests of the countries that are home to the majority of the world population are taken into account. The process of the formation of a multi-polar world is starting. We should learn to live in it, to hear and take into account a wide spectrum of arguments and opinions. I am sure that our Conference marks a step in that direction.