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Has Syria come in from the cold?

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assad.jpgThe European-Mediterranean summit in Paris might have produced grand projects ranging from cleaning up the Mediterranean sea to using North Africa’s sunshine to generate power. But that is is not what it will be remembered for.

It will be remembered for the glorious welcome it bestowed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who until yesterday was persona non-grata in the West, an autocrat leading a pariah regime, which many believe orchestrated the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.  

Assad was the star of the show, which sealed a new detente between Syria and Europe, with the Syrian and Israeli leaders sitting at the same table for the first time.

So what happened? And why are things finally looking up for Bashar? What lay behind this sudden turn in his fortunes? Are Bashar and his government really off the hook?       Is it all forgotten because Assad relaunched indirect peace talks with Israel and gave his blessing to a Qatari-mediated accord that ended Lebanon’s political crisis, allowing the election of a Lebanese president? After all, the new government was in Syria’s favour.

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