We’ve counted 403 news stories about Bashar Al Assad’s sack of his senior official, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Qadri Jamil, yesterday. This came after Jamil met with American official in Geneva. Jamil is a Russian educated economist. Lately, he has been the regime’s “scapegoat” for Syria’s increased inflation and other economic woes as Syrian state media blames him since his firing. Although Jamil has tried to gain entry into the opposition, he has not been accepted.
Also, in a disturbing development: the World Health Organization warned of a deadly polio outbreak in Syria–which has not witnessed a case since 1999. Reuters reported that ,”Health groups said in April that a $5.5 billion vaccination and monitoring plan could entirely rid the world of polio by 2018, but recent outbreaks in Pakistan and Somalia, as well as this latest reappearance in Syria, threaten that timetable.” How many more officials will attempt to broker a deal with the opposition before defecting? Now the Assad regime has launched the “Starvation Until Submission Campaign”, termed by Assad supporters, which already exacerbates the earlier food blockades on Eid.
Syria Fires Official Who Tried to Broker Peace
Source: New York Times By ANNE BARNARD Published: October 29, 2013
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian government on Tuesday fired a deputy prime minister who has lately been its most outspoken voice in favor of reform and who recently held meetings with American and Russian officials about peace talks that world leaders are trying to arrange to end Syria’s civil war.
The official, Qadri Jamil, was dismissed for spending too much time outside Syria, neglecting his duties and holding meetings “without coordinating with the government,” state television said. Mr. Jamil was fired shortly after he told the Russian news media that he had met with United States officials. Meetings between Syrian and American officials have been rare since the Syrian uprising began in 2011.
A State Department spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday that the United States ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, met with Mr. Jamil on Saturday in Geneva, calling the encounter one in “a long list” of meetings with people directly or indirectly connected to the Syrian government to discuss the potential peace talks.
Mr. Jamil, a Soviet-educated economist, was one of two members of tolerated opposition parties appointed to the government last year in a move billed as broadening its base. In an interview last month in Damascus, the Syrian capital, he blamed corrupt people on both sides for prolonging the war, and he said that despite his post, he was part of the “patriotic opposition,” which has not supported the armed uprising.
Behind the scenes, American and Russian officials have been meeting with Syrians inside and outside government to set up the planned talks. But there is little sign of movement, with the main exile opposition group demanding the departure of President Bashar al-Assad as a precondition and Mr. Assad saying he will not talk with those bearing arms against him.
The State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the firing did not represent any broader message about the Syrian government’s willingness to participate. But opposition activists called it a ploy that would allow Russia to present Mr. Jamil as a representative of the opposition during peace talks.
And analysts said it could be a strong warning that Mr. Assad planned to remain fully in control of any peace talks or political transition — a message delivered as Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy on Syria, visits Damascus to try to catalyze a peace process.
Randa Slim, a Syria expert at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington, said the firing of Mr. Jamil served to remind the United States and Russia that any peace talks “must go through Assad.”
“Sacking Qadri Jamil is also a sign of how strong #Assad feels today,” Ms. Slim posted on Twitter. “Jamil was very much #Russia’s man.”
Analysts in the region and supporters and opponents of Mr. Assad alike say that with the Syrian government holding its own and the rebels divided, it appears increasingly likely that the talks, if they take place, will work toward a deal in which Mr. Assad stays on, at least for an initial transition phase.
Mr. Jamil, speaking from Moscow to the Lebanese television channel Al Mayadeen after being fired Tuesday, said that his disagreements with the government were mild and declared that the demand for Mr. Assad to step down was “crippling” the dialogue before it could start.
“The idea of Assad stepping down is out of the question,” he said.
Mr. Jamil said it made little sense for the government, which has said it will attend the Geneva talks, to blame him for meeting with the talks’ sponsors, adding that he was working to “end the blood bath in Syria.”
But he said that while he did not want to work with the Syrian government as a full-time partisan, he would go to Geneva as part of a loyal opposition and would eventually return to Syria.
At their meeting last week, Mr. Jamil tried unsuccessfully to persuade Mr. Ford to allow him to attend the meeting as an opposition member, Reuters reported, citing a Middle Eastern official. Neither the armed opposition nor the main umbrella group for the nonviolent opposition, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, accept Mr. Jamil as an opposition member. And in recent weeks, he had been stripped of his economic portfolio and scapegoated by state-controlled media for Syria’s inflation and food and fuel shortages.
In another move that appeared aimed at positioning the government for Geneva, Mr. Assad on Tuesday issued an amnesty lifting criminal penalties for those who deserted the army, provided they turn themselves in and rejoin the service within 30 days if they are in Syria and 60 if they are abroad. [Click here to continue.]
Source: CBS News
DAMASCUS, Syria Syria’s president sacked a deputy prime minister who met Western officials to discuss the possibility of holding a peace conference, saying he acted without permission. The Tuesday decree was the latest blow to diplomatic efforts to bring the country’s warring parties to the negotiating table.
The sacking came as the U.N.’s health agency said it confirmed 10 polio cases in northeast Syria – the first confirmed outbreak of the highly contagious disease in the country in 14 years. Officials warned the disease threatened to spread among an estimated half-million children who have never received immunization because of the 2 1/2 year civil war.
Deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil was fired after a weekend meeting in Geneva that Washington says was with its ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford.
The Oct. 26 meeting was to discuss the possibility of holding a conference next month, also in Geneva, to negotiate a settlement to Syria’s conflict, said a U.S. official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the private conversation.
Three days later, President Bashar Assad issued a decree relieving Jamil of his duties for “undertaking activities and meetings outside the homeland without coordination with the government,” Syria’s government news agency SANA said.
Jamil told Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that he also met with a Russian diplomat and U.N. officials. He did not say whether his moves were coordinated with Assad.
“I am not an employee,” he said. “I am a political activist.”