Pushback — Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem gives his first Western interview since the uprising began against Bashar Assad — and uses it to lampoon the U.S. “We believe that the USA is the major player against Syria and the rest are its instruments,” he tells the Independent. “You must read well what you did in Afghanistan and Somalia. I don’t understand your slogan of fighting international terrorism when you are supporting this terrorism in Syria.”
Morsy Moves — Reuters interviews Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy ahead of trips to China and Iran – the first by a leader of Egypt in three decades. State-run Global Times barely contains its glee at Morsy choosing Beijing before D.C.: “Li Guofu, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies, [said] the trip signifies a major shift in Egypt’s foreign policy, which used to be firmly in Washington’s camp.” The Washington Post also weighs up the visits.
Peace Talks — The Los Angeles Times reports on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ announcement of “exploratory discussions” with the country’s largest rebel group — the FARC — to end decades of conflict. His guiding principles: “We will learn from the errors of the past so as not to repeat them…the process has to bring an end to the conflict, not its prolongation [and] we will maintain military presence and operations over every centimeter of national territory.”
Regaining Power — The BBC shadows the Mali military as it attempts to wrest control of the north of the country from Islamist insurgents. When asked how his men could “successfully take on the well armed and, in some cases, battle-hardened al-Qaeda-linked Islamists,” considering that, “earlier this year, they did run away from them, with scarcely a shot fired,” Colonel Didier Dako told the BBC’s Mike Thomson: “We were beaten by the Islamists not because of their strength but because of our weakness. We are working on that and are quite sure we can conquer these areas.”
Maritime Rivalries — The Washington Post considers “deep divisions created by China’s increasingly assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea region.” At a meeting of economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Surin Pitsuwan, the head of ASEAN’s secretariat, admitted it was buckling under the “big and heavy” presence of China and the U.S. in the region, and said a failure to thus far reach an agreement over the disputed territories is “a wake-up call that these [security] issues will occur and we should be prepared to handle them.”
Stinging Attack — In the furore surrounding British politician Tim Yeo’s criticism of British Prime Minister David Cameron over the expansion of Heathrow airport, the New Statesman observes that it is the “ferocity” of Yeo’s stinging attack “rather than the subject in question (a third runway at Heathrow), that is most notable.” Yeo, who belongs to the Cameron-led Conservative Party, said “the Prime Minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse” in an article he wrote for the Daily Telegraph.