Kosovo's financial support for Syrian rebels unclear
Kosovo weighs how and whether to help, given some parallels in experiences.
By Safet Kabashaj for SES Türkiye in Pristina -- 13/07/12
Resistance against the oppressive regime of Syria President Bashar al-Assad has prompted numerous comparisons to Kosovo, even as officials from the young Balkan nation hosted some Syrian opposition leaders in Pristina to share their experiences.
Syrian detainees arrested for participating in protests against Syria President Bashar al-Assad wait in a police headquarters building in Damascus on July 11th. [Reuters]
But Pristina has not yet determined how much, financially, that Kosovo will support the Syrian opposition or how its money would be earmarked.
Kosovo has denied allegations from Russia that it has provided training to Syrian rebels, who have been fighting Assad's government for 16 months. The UN says more than 10,000 have died in the conflict, although opposition groups put the figure at 17,000. Another 30,000 people have fled across the border into Turkey to escape the violence.
Media reports said at least 150 people – mostly civilians – were killed by government forces with helicopters and tanks Thursday (July 12th) in the village of Treimsa in Hama province.
On Tuesday, Nawaf al-Fares, the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, defected from the government, according to Syrian opposition leaders. He would be the highest-ranking diplomat to abandon the Assad regime.
Pristina readily admits that its officials met with Ammar Abduhamid, a liberal and pro-democracy Syrian activist; Djengizkhan Hasson a Kurdish activist, and Molham Aldrobi, a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Syria, for three days in April. The visit was arranged by the Foreign Policy Club, a Kosovo think-tank that has also arranged meetings in Pristina with delegations from other countries that do not recognise Kosovo's independence.
"Our guests saw Kosovo as an example [from which] they can benefit in international and domestic aspects," Alban Bokshi, executive director of the organisation, told SES Türkiye. He said that Syrians were keen to hear how a small Muslim-dominated country managed to attract international community intervention and adopt democratic principles.
They also wanted to hear how Kosovo leaders managed to become partners with Western countries, and unify their political divisions as an example Syria might follow for establishing peace in the post-war period.
"We discussed with them the situation in the '90s in Kosovo," Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa, who was finance minister-in-exile with the government, told SES Türkiye.
He rejected suggestions that the Syrian rebels asked for explicit assistance. "They were intellectuals, very well-educated in prestigious institutions in which Kosovars would [be proud] to attend," Mustafa said.
The meetings in Kosovo sparked allegations from Russia. Moscow has been one of Assad's strongest supports and has objected loudly to suggestions Kosovo supports the Syrian opposition.
But reports this week indicated a shift in policy, as Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was meeting with the head of the Syrian National Council to discuss how to end the fighting. Russia also said this week that it will not deliver new weapons to Syria as long as the situation is unstable.
Bokshi, who arranged the meetings between Syrian rebels and Kosovo officials, said there are several similarities between Kosovo and Syria that have been difficult for Moscow.
"There is a repression from a minor religious Alavit community in Syria, while Kosovo was repressed from an ethnic minority of Serbs," Bokshi said. "The international community's plans for intervention in Syria are prevented at the UN Security Council from Russia and China as it was prevented in the Kosovo case. Now, there are voices [suggesting] that the international community is thinking to act in Syria without [a Security Council] resolution as happened with Kosovo."
The Russian liaison office in Pristina declined to comment to SES Türkiye.