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World Leaders Urged to Act Together to Solve Syria Crisis

Fon Mathuros, Head of Media, Communications Department, Tel.: +41 (0)79 201 0211, e-mail fma@weforum.org

  • Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia calls for America to sponsor a UN Security Council resolution on stopping the violence
  • Russia urged to work with the US to solve the conflict
  • Senator McCain criticises Russian arms supplies to President Assad’s regime
  • The theme of the 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business
  • For more information, visit http://wef.ch/Davos

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 24 January 2014 – Prince Turki al-Faisal, Prince of Saudi Royal Family; Chairman, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Saudi Arabia, criticised the United States and the global community for a lack of direction over the Syrian crisis, during a TV debate at the 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

“The whole world is sitting back and allowing this massacre to take place without taking action,” Prince Turki said. He called on America to “go to the United Nations Security Council and get a Security Council resolution that forces should be deployed to stop the fighting in Syria. If that is not available, then at least a humanitarian corridor. We have to stop the killing.”

Jane Harman, Director, President and Chief Executive Officer, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, USA, said that in a networked world, America cannot go it alone: “The rest of the world has to step up.” She added: “In Syria, Russia has to be our partner” in the search for peace. From the floor, Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, asked: “Why isn’t the US calling on Putin to persuade Assad to stop targeting civilians?”

Panellists disagreed over whether the US should have bombed Syria after President Assad crossed President Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons. Prince Turki lamented the decision not to bomb Syria: “When you make statements as a head of state you have to stick by them; if you don’t, people don’t believe you. It removes a level of confidence that had previously existed.”

However, Alexey Pushkov, Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the Russian Federation, said: “Is it leadership when you bomb up a country and just go away?”

US Republican Senator John McCain criticised Russia for flying in arms shipments daily to Damascus to support the Assad regime. McCain said the regime used the weapons, including cluster bombs, against innocent civilians. Referring to recent reports that 11,000 detainees had been allegedly tortured and executed by the Assad regime, he called the ongoing peace negotiations in Geneva a “farce”. “If you believe Bashar Assad is going to agree to a transitional government, I’ve got beachfront property for you in Arizona,” he said.

Pushkov countered McCain by saying that Syria’s government is legitimate, recognized by the United Nations. He criticised Qatar for allegedly spending US$ 3 billion over the past two years supporting the rebels in Syria. “It’s not a fight for democracy in Syria – it’s a completely different fight,” he said.

Turning to the debate on Edward Snowden and surveillance, Harman acknowledged: “I do think we have lost the confidence of the people.” She warned that “some of what’s been released gives our technology playbook to the bad guys” and called for Snowden to be returned to the US to face justice. Harman agreed that the US urgently needs to change the nature and scope of its surveillance operations, but added that both security and liberty need to be pursued simultaneously.

Pushkov said the US had set up a “Big Brother” system: “Intelligence is one thing, but total spying and total control is a different thing.” Privacy is one of democracy’s most important principles, he said, and it is dangerous for America when it resorts to undemocratic principles through such widespread surveillance. “America has to regain the trust of the world,” he said. He added that Russia would not force Snowden to leave the country against his will.

McCain agreed that Snowden had violated his position, but pointed the spotlight at cyber attacks launched by China. He added that cyber attacks, which can “really disrupt the world economy”, should be our focus.

Prince Turki al-Faisal closed on a pragmatic note: “Spying will go on, no matter how much you deny it.” When asked by moderator Nik Gowing of BBC World News why Saudi Arabia and Russia do not have whistle-blowers, he replied simply: “It’s a different culture.”

The 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is taking place from 22 to 25 January under the theme The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. More than 2,500 participants from 100 countries are taking part in the Meeting. Participants include more than 30 heads of state or government and 1,500 business leaders from the Forum’s 1,000 member companies, as well as Social Entrepreneurs, Global Shapers, Young Global Leaders and representatives from civil society, media, academia and the arts.

The Co-Chairs of the Annual Meeting 2014 are: Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria; Kris Gopalakrishnan, President, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII); Vice-Chairman, Infosys, India; Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Board, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, People’s Republic of China; Joseph Jimenez, Chief Executive Officer, Novartis, Switzerland; Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Total, France; Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer, Yahoo, USA and Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation, USA.

Notes to Editors

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