No easy solutions in the Middle East

opinion August 31, 2012 00:00

By Thanong Khanthong

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Thailand is walking a tricky path at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul will today illustrate Thailand’s position with regard to the Syria crisis, which is at the top of the agenda at the summit. Syria is caught in a deepening crisis, one that will determine a new balance in global geo-politics.

Surapong will be calling for an inclusive process to restore peace in Syria. By asserting this position, Thailand elects to call upon Syria’s government to resolve its internal conflict with the full participation of the Syrian people.
From a news report filed by Supalak Karnchanakhundee, The Nation’s correspondent, Surapong will be delivering his speech on behalf of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the summit. His message is that a sustainable peace in any country and region can only be achieved through dialogue.
 “We express our sincere and steadfast hope that the people of Syria will be able to resolve their current struggles through an inclusive process so that peace can be returned to the country,” he said in a written statement.
 Differences, disagreements and disputes are part of human nature, he said. As such, they can even occur within and between countries that have otherwise enjoyed long-standing friendship and cooperation. “Thailand is convinced that dialogue can eliminate misunderstandings and prejudices,” he said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, is scheduled to deliver the opening speech.
The NAM summit, which brings together a number of prominent countries and international figures, marks an important juncture for further political and security development in the Middle East.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi; Bolivian President Evo Morales; Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of the Presidium of the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly (parliament); Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah; Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani; Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari; Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov; Azerbaijani President IlhamAliyev; Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir; Armenian President Serzh Sarkisyan; Lebanese President Michel Sulaiman; Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina; and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe are some of the important international figures who will be attending the summit.
The Assad government of Syria has been engaged in fierce fighting against rebels backed by Western and other foreign governments. There are propaganda news stories emanating from both sides. About 200,000 Syrians have lost their homes and become refugees. Whether the Syrian regime will fall, like that in Libya, remains to be seen. 
But Syria is an overture for a larger target, which is Iran. After Iraq, Libya, and possibly Syria, the Western powers’ next logical target is Iran. Therefore, Tehran is trying its utmost to prevent the fall of the Syrian regime and the spillover effects that would have. 
In the meantime, there is still speculation about possible first strikes against each other initiated by either Israel or Iran. If that were to happen, war would become an open-ended scenario.
In the Syria crisis, the superpowers are laying their cards on the table. India has made its position clear that it does not approve a unilateral military action against Syria. With this stance, India has joined China and Russia in backing Syria. Iran is using the case of Syria to gain support for its leadership in the Muslim world of more than 1.3 billion people. 
Arab and Middle-Eastern states that are at odds with Iran include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Turkey, which are all backed by the US-led Nato.
 On the Palestinian issue, Thailand will also reiterate its neutral stance. Thailand has already recognised the statehood of Palestine. It supports a two-state solution, which calls for an independent Palestine and the State of Israel to co-exist peacefully.
   Surapong suggests His Majesty the King’s philosophy of Sufficiency Economy as a solution for peace and a better life for ordinary people. The philosophy emphasises moderation, living within one’s means and responsible consumption – to provide the necessary resilience to external shocks.