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 Syria.
For further information, please contact: Dr. Paul Larudee, Ph.D. @ <email@example.com>.