19 Jun 2013
Tony Blair demands Western intervention to overthrow Assad
By Damien McElroy and agencies
The consequences of refusing to intervene are likely to be more costly for the West than participating in the drive to oust the regime.
Speaking in Israel, the former prime minister acknowledged the “predominant emotion” in the West was to stay out of Syria, where rebels are battling to oust Bashar Assad and his regime, and avoid becoming embroiled in the politics of the region. “Undoubtedly the predominant emotion in the West today is to stay out of Syria; indeed to stay out of the region’s politics,” he said. “But as every day that passes shows, the cost of staying out may be paid in a higher price later.”
The comments came a day after G8 leaders papered over differences between the West and Russia to agree that a political solution to the conflict must be an international priority.
The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition front body, said it was committed to participation in negotiations that sought to establish a transistional government.
“The Syrian National Coalition is committed to any political solution that puts an end to the bloodshed, and achieves the Syrian people’s aspirations to bring down the Assad regime,” it said in a statement.
The group added it “reserves the right to use all means at its disposal” to bring Assad down, “chiefly military action”.
“The Assad regime has continuously killed civilians using ballistic missiles, chemical weapons and warplanes. It is the only source of terrorism in Syria.
“In order to achieve a lasting peace in Syria, efforts by all countries should be focused on fighting the regime alone.”
Mr Blair said the situation in Syria was one of many “ugly choices” facing leaders, including on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and economic policy.
“The best short-term politics will often pull in the opposite direction from the best long-term policy,” he said. “So much of the sentiment in the Western political economy is anti-business and particularly anti-the banks.
“But the best long-term policy is almost certainly to encourage business and have the financial sector back on its feet and thriving.
Mr Blair, a Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet of international powers, said the “window of opportunity” for progress on the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians would “be open only for a short space of time”.
He said: “Let us hope that over the coming weeks, a plan for progress can be put in place in which politics, economics and security are aligned.
“With (US Secretary of State) John Kerry’s fantastic energy and commitment, we’re all working hard to accomplish this.
“But we should understand: the window of opportunity will be open for only a short period of time. We must go through it together. If not the window will close and could close forever. Time is not our friend. This is urgent. This is now. This is the time for statesmen not politicians.”