Former U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead
Maguire from Northern Ireland are two of twenty participants from seven
countries that will participate in an international delegation to Syria May
2-10, 2013. The purpose of the delegation is to meet with communities
affected by the fighting, with a view towards facilitating peace and
reconciliation in Syria.
More than 70,000 Syrians are estimated to have died and millions have been
displaced in the conflict, which began in March, 2011. It started with
nonviolent protests against the regime of President Bahar al-Assad, but now
pits a loose coalition of armed rebels calling itself the Free Syrian Army
(FSA) against the Assad regime.
Although the U.S. has so far refused to send arms directly to the rebels,
many rebel arms are made in the U.S. and supplied by U.S. allies Turkey,
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others in the region. Nevertheless, the U.S. is
worried that rebel arms are increasingly in the hands of al-Qaeda and its
allies, who form a powerful fighting force in the FSA. Arms to the regime
come mainly from Russia and Iran, with a smaller number from China.
"It's a very difficult situation," says Dr. Paul Larudee, a participant
from the San Francisco, California area, "but we have to do what we can to
end the suffering and achieve reconciliation. The Syrian people deserve
the opportunity to resolve their differences amongst themselves and without
foreign interference, which is a large part of the problem. If the U.S.
and Russia agree to end the flow of arms to all sides, the death toll will
fall and it will open greater opportunity for peaceful resolution."
The delegates were invited by Mussalaha, a Syrian organization that tries
to broker local peace accords in different parts of Syria and which
provides humanitarian relief to all in need. Mussalaha, which means
"Reconciliation", considers itself non-political and is one of the few
Syrian groups that has good relations with most sides in the conflict.
Although mainly Christian, Mussalaha includes persons from most of Syria's religious
and ethnic communities.
The delegation will meet civil, religious and government representatives,
tour conflict areas and visit refugee camps insofar as possible. They will
also visit Lebanon to meet with Syrians that are currently living outside