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The regular guy in the street has that same need for regulatory certainty. What does the ordinary citizen want, after all? He wants exactly what the corporation wants --a large automobile, a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and regulatory certainty. Give a man regulatory certainty in the government and state agencies: fair and efficient service, reasonable waiting times for doctor's appointment -- days or weeks, not months -- a business license within one week and not two years, a classroom for his child without 40 noisy classmates, a police that addresses your complaint immediately and doesn't give you the brush-off. All these demand regulatory certainty.
And what does this guy want from big business? He wants good products and services at fair prices. He doesn't want to be robbed, fleeced or bullied. He doesn't want to have to closely examine his utility, bank and insurance statements in order to make sure he isn't being screwed over.
Most Israelis don't have job security -- most of us could be fired tomorrow -- much less retirement security. Most Israeli workers today do not know for sure that their pensions will allow them to maintain their present standard of living. High management fees, investments that don't pan out, failure to put enough away each month and changes in the market all add up to an absence of retirement security.
And we haven't even discussed raising children. Anyone who enters the world of parenthood immediately enters a world of uncertainty. Not only because of the question of how the child will turn out but rather how will we provide for his needs, help him acquire an education or an apartment. But these are the uncertainties of people who don't have it made, are not organized, the people on whose behalf there is public pressure to advance a host of issues like bolstering public medicine, promoting competition in the food industry and in the banking system and government intervention in home prices, which have been on the rise for eight years.
The average person who is not a bank CEO, career army officer or natural-gas tycoon; an employee of Israel Electric Corporation, the ports or any public authority, or a senior executive in the medical establishment enjoys zero regulatory certainty. Give it to them! They need it, no less than people with six-figure monthly salaries. It would not be an exaggeration to assume that the public overwhelmingly supports regulatory certainty. It is perhaps the least controversial issue among the Israeli public. What's bad about a little certainty in a changing world -- there is a consensus between the citizen and the state, the consumer and the corporation and between first-class citizens and seventh-class citizens. There is no reason to argue. Really, there isn't.
Except that there is perhaps one small matter that should be considered: Are the two sides talking about exactly the same regulatory certainty? Is the certainty that the banker seeks the same certainty her customer seeks? Are the gas companies demanding the same certainty as the general public? What about the medical establishment on one hand and patients on the other? Is the certainty that the huge companies want about taxation the same certainty that serves the small businesses that pay higher taxes than they do?
In recent years there has been a series of struggles in which both sides want certainty. However, it is not the same certainty. Some want to continue the status quo in which they earn handsomely and control financial sources, natural resources and tax shelters. The others want to survive, to earn a decent living, to know that they have some measure of security. They want to know that if they study and work hard they will get ahead in life and will be able to buy an apartment. They want to know that if they need a medical specialist they will get an appointment quickly without needing connections. And if the pie is big then they will be left a morsel and not be ignored.
Only the government and regulators can provide this certainty to both sides, but it does not happen much. There is currently a reality of a tug-of-war in very many areas, and it will remain thus because anyone who wants regulatory certainty means to say that he basically wants to be left alone and not be touched. Let them go to someone else.
It wouldn't be a wild guess to predict that a lack of regulatory certainty will remain with us for years to come. Here are some of the reasons:
1. Israel is a country that started a dramatic process 30 years ago, and there are many areas that have not been fully organized.
2. In this transition from a socialist economy to a capitalist economy, side effects arose such as a growth in inequality and poverty that require fixing and compensation.
3. New situations require a new arrangement, be it a positive situation like discovering gas or technological developments, or a less positive situation like a global financial crisis that created distortions such as outlandish incentives to financial managers that cause them to take wild risks.
4. Governments and ministers are replaced here at a rapid clip, and the political system is such that rare are the cases in which a minister completes two consecutive terms -- the time needed to enact genuine, fundamental and above all irreversible change.
5. The changes that occurred in Israeli society, its heterogeneity and the gaps create constant disquiet and demand for fixing the situation.
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PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC), Thailands leading petrochemical company under PTT's umbrella, will establish a 50:50 joint venture with one of the country's leading sugar makers to set up the nations first bio-plastic industrial estate with an estimated investment of 5 billion baht ($143 million).
This move follows its plan to drive Thailand to be a bio-plastic hub to serve the rising demand in the region.
"We are planning to locate the industrial estate in the central region, where farmers grow a plenty of sugarcane. Then, we plan to make it as a one-stop place from growing sugarcane, producing sugar, making ethanol, generating electricity from biomass-based power plants and setting up a bio-plastic manufacturing plant," said PTTGC's president and chief executive Supatanapong Punmeechaow.
This joint venture deal is expected to be finalised this year. As planned, it will take around 30 months to complete the construction and commence the operation.
"If we can make this bio-plastic hub happen, I am sure that NatureWorks [the world's largest biopolymer producer] will choose to set up a $200-million worth polylactic-acid manufacturing plant in Thailand," he said.
PTTGC has allocated 3 per cent of its net profit each year to do research and development on high-value products. It targets the revenue from high-value products will account for 20 per cent of its petrochemical revenue in the next 10 years from 4 per cent at present.
For the petrochemical complex project in the United States, it is on the process to design the plant, find financial sources and evaluate the project's value. He expects that it can decide whether the project will be worth the investment or not by the third quarter of next year.
Exclusive: US-based NatureWorks to decide between Thailand amp; Malaysia for setting up $200m PLA plant by May-end
PTTGC to enter JV with Japanese partner for US-based petrochem project
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The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will change three train routes to help ease traffic during the "Bike for Mom" event on Sunday.
Trains operating on the northern and northeastern routes will start from Bang Sue station 1 instead of Hua Lamphong station between 1pm and 9pm tomorrow, the SRT said on Friday.
Trains operating on the southern route will depart from Bang Sue station 2 during the same period as participants of the Bike for Mom 2015 event are due to pass Si Ayutthaya Road between 2pm and 9pm tomorrow, the SRT said.
Free bus services will be provided for passengers from Bangkok station (Hua Lamphong) to Bang Sue junction and from Bang Sue junction to Bangkok station.
The Mass Transit Authority of Thailand (MRT) and Bangkok Metro Plc (BMCL), operator of the capitals underground mass-transit system, will cut subway fares by half for all routes from noon to midnight tomorrow to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Sirikits 83rd birthday.
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will lead a convoy of cyclists on a 43-kilometre ride in Bangkokon Sundayin honour of the Queens birthday.
Meanwhile, the stipulations of the Chinese loan to fund a multi-billion-baht dual-rail track scheme should be known before the joint meeting of the project next month, according to the Transport Ministry.
Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said the government is still open for financial sources to fund the 400-billion-baht double track project.
Funds can be drawn either from the state budget, state enterprises, domestic and overseas loans or by setting up an infrastructure fund.
The government will also look into the interest rates of loans proposed by China to decide how much cash it can get, ACM Prajin said.
He said Chinese officials will tell Thai officials about the interest rates before the next meeting in Bangkok scheduled for Sept 10-12.
The next meeting in Bangkok will consider when the projects contract will be signed, land expropriation proceedings and the date of the schemes launch, ACM Prajin said.
The joint railway project will be divided into four sections: Bangkok-Kaeng Khoi, Kaeng Khoi-Map Ta Phut, Kaeng Khoi-Nakhon Ratchasima and Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai.
The designs of the Bangkok-Kaeng Khoi section and the Kaeng Khoi-Nakhon Ratchasima section are more than 80% complete, ACM Prajin said.
He said the launch of the project is tentatively set for Oct 23 to mark the memorial day of the death of King Rama V. If it cannot be launched on that day, then the date will be between Dec 1-10.
Thailand can only pay two fifths of the projects 400-billion-baht investment sum, he said.
ACM Prajin said talks he held with Chinese officials in Chengdu late last week made clear progress on locations for train stations and staff training.
He said the two parties agreed to set up a special purpose vehicle, or SPV, which will be a subsidiary company to operate train services, install related systems and procure train carriages.
The SPV must not be a state enterprise, Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said.
Stake holdings in the SPV will be owned by China, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), investment funds and other private investors.
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Author: Habib Sangar
After nearly a year of diplomatic efforts made by President Ghani's administration to restore trust and build confidence in the relationship between his country and Pakistan, the most recent wave of suicide attacks, causing a high number of civilian causalities, has brought their peace negotiations to a stalemate. These attacks which killed more than 70 people and wounded hundreds, have widely caused anger and frustration among both the Afghan people and their elected officials towards Pakistan's government, who has long been accused of providing sanctuary and support for the Taliban.
Since taking office as second elected president, and the first to be handed power through the democratic process, President Ghani took an unprecedented approach in seeking Pakistan's blessing to bring an end to a one and a half decade-long insurgency in Afghanistan. The level of trust he enshrined towards Pakistan's government and its military has not only failed to meet and fulfill the desires and aspiration he projected for the prosperity and development of his country and region. To a larger extent, it has eroded the faith his supporters had placed in him. In addition to a course of daily criticisms by citizens, parliamentarians, members of civil society groups and politicians, his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had publically accused Ghani's administration of treason in his alleged act of signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Pakistan for the sharing of intelligence with ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence). But with the wave of recent attacks, it seems the reserve of patience among Afghans, and president Ghani in particular, has reached its end.
Albeit Pakistan repeatedly denies its involvement in any kind insurgency operations and terroristic attacks on Afghan soil, disclosure of Mullah Omar's (former leader of the Taliban) death, and the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor in Pakistan as their new leader, has been a clear indication that Pakistan, based on its outdated militaristic doctrines, support the Taliban as a proxy to destabilize Afghanistan. This would result in the imposition of a government that is Pro-Pakistan and submissive to their agenda.
Pakistan, on other hand, released a statement condemning the recent attacks in Kabul and denied any involvement in providing support to those who claimed responsibility. Similarly, the United States has called on both governments to assist each other in destroying the sanctuaries of terrorist and eliminate the danger that jeopardizes the security and stability of both nations. Speaking only a few hours after Afghanistan's president accused Pakistan for not going after the Taliban leaders in Pakistan, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said that they have no such intelligence to prove the involvement of Pakistan in the capacity that Afghanistan claims. "It is in the urgent interest of both countries to eliminate safe havens and to reduce the operational capacity of the Taliban on both sides of the border," Kirby said.
Even if the Taliban were to come to the table for negotiations, the likelihood of reaching a peace deal is slim. From an ideological standpoint, the Taliban's extremist policies and methods for the execution of their principles are not only in contradiction with the Afghan Constitution and Human Rights standards; they are strictly against the values and beliefs for which the United States and its allies have made tremendous sacrifices to instate in Afghanistan. Integration of the Taliban, even if they accept a peace deal, into current regime will be challenging. In comparison to late 2001 and early 2002, Afghanistan has made significant progress in which the integration of Taliban will be nearly impossible, unless the system based upon which the current government is functioning were to be constitutionally revised. Furthermore, public perception toward the Taliban and their supporters, namely Pakistan's military and ISI, is more negative now than it has ever been. Today, there is a general consensus among the Afghan people, especially among the youth, that the Taliban is fighting a war which is under direct command of Pakistan's army and ISI. With such a perception of the Taliban as currently exists among the people, the group's hypothetical reform and reintegration to Afghans society would be seen as dubious and insolvent.
The Bonn Agreement, which laid the foundation of today's governmental system in Afghanistan, was imbued with certain strategic flaws. Inclusion of the Taliban in the process at that time could have resulted into a peaceful political settlement among all Afghan factions fighting against one another. In addition to perhaps ensuring the legitimacy of the established government from the perspective of Taliban sympathizers, it, however, would have divided the Taliban into two groups. On one side would have been hardliners who still stood by Bin Laden. On the opposing side would be those who would renounce any sort of affiliation with Al Qaeda.
The past is gone and the opportunity is not to be had again. Now the Afghan government, which has claimed and provided evidence of Pakistan's clandestine influence of terrorist climate in its country for the past ten years, should reach out to other regional countries. Especially, it would be beneficial to befriend China, who is a close ally of Pakistan in the region. Then, relationships with the United States and other world powers could be strengthened to build a joint strategy, based upon the whereabouts of terrorists, their supporters, financial sources, etc.
Even though the presence of the Taliban in these peace talks is important, peace negotiation should directly involve Pakistan, moderated by international community and regional powers under a specific framework. At the same time, the Afghan government should hold off any future talks until all sides involved in the conflict adopt a clear proposed structure for negotiations, which has been validated by the international community. In the absence of such checks and balances, talks will show no results in achieving peace. Pakistan must give assurance that it will take decisive action against insurgent groups, as it vowed to America, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, that it would implement any measures to eliminate Al Qaeda and their affiliates. Likewise, all peace talks should continue to be stalled until Pakistan takes practical steps against those elements, particularly those who were behind the most recent Kabul attacks, and generally those who are against the peace process and continue to kill the Afghan people after emerging from their safe haven in Pakistan.
With credible evidence on hand, the afghan government should approach the United Nations Security Council in order to pressure Pakistan to stop funding and harboring terrorists on its soil. Similarly, the United States, who has greatly suffered from acts of terror- beginning by the deadly attacks of 9/11 on its soil, as well as thousands of losses thereafter in campaign against terrorism, should once again clearly set the red- line such as "you are either with us or against us". Pakistan should be given the same straight choice that she was given by farmer president Bush shortly after deadly attacks of 9/11. There's, once again, a need for a clear confrontation by the United States to ask Pakistan to bring an abrupt end to supporting and sheltering these terrorists, or otherwise it should be treated as "state sponsors terrorism".
Habib Sangar Former Director of Afghanistan Parliamentary Institute and graduate alumni of Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, United States.
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Saying that as long as EU countries do not cooperate on the issue of immigrants and terrorism, the problem will continue to spread to the whole world, EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozk?r highlighted that Turkey, which currently has 2 million refugees, will have a hard time if another refugee influx happens as it is nearing full capacity. Bozk?r said the government regards terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), al-Qaida, the PKK and the Revolutionary Peoples Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) as equally threatening to the Turkish state and they were fighting against all of them, adding that seeing the EU as a Christian union will cause terrorism to spread. He also said they were planning the return of refugees after establishing a safe zone in Syria and constructing housing.
Daily Sabah spoke with Bozk?r about various subjects including terrorism and refugees, the EU expansion process and the Cyprus issue during his visit to Luxembourg for the ministers of European affairs meeting.
Daily Sabah: You gave a speech regarding Turkeys refugee policies and fight against terrorism at the ministers of European affairs meeting, which was a part of Luxembourgs EU term presidency. Could you please elaborate on this subject?
Volkan Bozk?r: At this meeting, we expressed our countrys disposition and concerns regarding immigrants and terrorism. Europes a terrorist organization that does not harm me is more preferable kind of attitude is wrong and unacceptable. In our opinion, the PKK, DHKP-C, ISIS and al-Qaida are all the same. Turkey has never made a distinction and we consider all of them to be terrorist organizations and we will never allow them to act freely. We expect the same attitude from European countries. If they continue to discriminate one from another, the results will be dire. This issue is not only Syria, Iraq and Turkeys problem. As long as the US and EU countries do not cooperate to eliminate the causes of refugee problems and fight terrorism, it will spread. In our campaign, we want Western society to be on our side. If the Syrian issue lingers and refugees continue to exist in Syrias neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, there will be other forthcoming issues. In the fight against terrorism, Western society has to correct the misconception that terrorism is terrorism and terrorists are terrorists. A distinction among terrorists and terrorist groups constitutes one of the causes of todays issues. Terrorism should be fought with a single definition and without any distinction. Therefore, we caution European countries on two points. Do not make a distinction between terrorist organizations and do not regard the European Union only as a Christian union, as it will only fuel the growth of terrorism. The fight against terrorism and racism should be simultaneous. Both terrorism and racism are unacceptable, but when these two come together it causes other issues. In the fight against racism, Islamophobia and fundamentalism, it is important to improve the environment the people live in and be more inclusive.
DS: Does the EUs disposition towards the PKK please Turkey?
VB:The PKK is still categorized as a terrorist organization by the EU, there are not any changes in this aspect. However, especially after what transpired in Kobani, they questioned why Turkey did not make a distinction between the PKK and ISIS. According to us, they are both terrorist organizations. We expressed that we found their views incorrect. The recent events indicate that there are no differences between terrorist organizations. As long as they do not operate on European soil, European countries allow the existence of terrorist organizations. These countries do not prohibit terrorist organizations publications or scrutinize their financial sources. They even allow murderous members of the terrorist organizations to wander in their cities without obstruction. When these terrorist organizations become a threat for them as well then they start to act. Terrorist activities also have an economic factor of millions of dollars. Some countries take this financial aspect into consideration and do not act. The Middle East has always been a center of attraction for European countries. Even if they claim they are not interested in the region any longer, these statements should be regarded with suspicion. Taking this situation into consideration, it is among our countrys policies to take the necessary stand in order to protect our interests.
DS: Does border security mostly constitute cooperation between Turkey and the EU against terrorism?
VB: The talks regarding border security and integrated border management have been ongoing for a long time. The opening criteria for Chapter 24 of the ascension process to the EU includes integrated border management, biometric passports and the readmission agreement. In this context, when the readmission agreement with the EU was signed, it was acknowledged that the cooperation on fields such as integrated border management was coming close to a desired level. We always say that Europes security depends on Turkeys security. We have been expressing our concerns on these issues and we are not happy to see that our concerns are materializing. I believe that the scope and the crucial nature of the situation are comprehended better. I expect to see Western society and European countries on our side.
DS: At the meeting you also talked about Syrian and Iraqi refugees. How does the EU approach this subject?
VB: Turkey continues to host 2 million refugees and provide for their needs. Turkey has spent approximately $6 billion for refugees. We did not demand money from other countries. We did this as our duty to humanity, but we continue to express that this is not just an issue plaguing the region. Every country has a certain capacity. When the time comes, countries in the region may not continue to accept any more refugees. Naturally, they will have to seek refuge in other countries. We assert that we have to discuss and try to solve this issue. If this is not done today, there may be dire consequences for tomorrow. While Turkey and neighboring countries have taken in almost 5 million refugees, the EU is trying to implement a refugee quota system that is incomprehensible. It is a reflection of their understanding, they do not see the issue as being their own. I hope that they do not suffer for their indetermination in the times to come.
DS: After signing the readmission agreement with the EU, the process of lifting visa requirements with the EU started last year. What are the recent developments on this?
VB: EU committees come to Turkey periodically and evaluate the situation. In accordance with their evaluation, a report was published in March that gives their expectations. Except for nine articles, there are improvements and some are complete. They are continuing to evaluate and they will publish another report in October. When it is published, we will have the chance to compare it to last years report. According to my impression, along with realized improvements, it will be better. The EU had committed to lifting the visa requirements if Turkey could fulfill the conditions of the readmission agreement. If it is not lifted in three years, Turkey has the right to abolish the readmission agreement. It is not about calculations, it is about fulfilling commitments. The European Commission has expressed that Turkey had fulfilled its duty, but the European Council did not lift the visa requirements. This is an injustice. I believe that we can fulfill the conditions of 72 articles in three years. For example, when the law of protection of personal data passes, four of the expectations will be satisfied.
DS: Chapter 17 was expected to be opened in the previous months, but it did not happen. What is the current situation?
VB: The last EU term presidency, which was administered by Latvia, was unsuccessful in meeting Turkeys expectations. We had accomplished the procedure of Chapter 17 by March and there was no reason to delay the opening of the chapter. Because of Latvias filibuster, it did not reach the council by June 15, which made the opening of the chapter impossible at the end of June. There are certain periods for opening chapters: June, October and December. Unfortunately, the opening of Chapter 17 cannot happen until October due to this reason.
DS: How do you evaluate the priorities of Luxembourg, which has the EU term presidency?
VB: During the previous term presidency, the EU got off on the wrong foot. They made statements that disregarded expansion. While we are concerned with these kinds of statements, many countries stability depends on expansion. For example, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Balkan countries and Moldova foresee a future for their countries through the hope of expansion. When you disregard expansion, it will cause unrest among these countries. After our warnings, they reinstated the word expansion to the title of Commissar in charge of expansion. Luxembourgs EU term presidency puts expansion back on the priority list, which is pleasing.
DS: Cyprus negotiations are continuing in a positive manner. How will this development affect Turkeys EU process?
VB: In our opinion, the negotiations on Cyprus are going well and, hopefully it will yield a successful result. If this issue is resolved, we will be able to open 14 chapters that are blocked due to this issue. During this eight-year period we became able to open all of the chapters. If the Cyprus issue is resolved, we will be able to open 10 chapters in one year. We have the advantage to open these 10 chapters in just two months. Chapters 23 and 24 are the most important ones. While Chapter 23 is about political criteria, Chapter 24 is about refugees and border security. At the moment, we are not able to open these chapters. Whenever it is made possible, we will be able to open it on the shortest notice. The EU not opening these chapters takes the EUs right to criticize Turkey from them. If the chapters are opened, there will be more meetings and there will be platforms to relay criticism. The current mode of communication that is conducted by sending notices is problematic. They should not expect us to bow our head because Turkey and the EU are equals. Even if the EU does not have relations based on equality with the other countries, this does not mean they can force Turkey into subordination.
DS: You had criticized this years EU progress report severely and did not accept it. What was the reason behind your attitude?
VB: The progress report is not a platform to punish or to make accusations. It has to be constructive and it should be prepared together. It is not possible for us to accept a report when they avoid communicating with us. While I believe that European Parliaments Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, has good intentions, she was not able to utilize the mechanisms very well when compared to the previous rapporteur. A total of 85 out of 420 motions suggested in the report came from the same person. This person is the president of the Joint Parliamentary Commission. The Joint Parliamentary Commission along with the Association Commission was established with the Ankara Agreement to improve relations. The president of the Joint Parliamentary Commission is Greek and his vice president is a Greek Cypriot; they suggested 85 motions combined. This year when they submitted the report, which was full of extreme criticism, we returned the report without accepting it. If they refer to this action in the following reports, we will continue to return the reports.
DS: In your previous statements you had said that there were certain lobbies that work against Turkey. What kind of measures have been taken against these lobbies?
VB: This issue coincided with a period of time when Turkey was occupied with internal affairs. Our parliamentarians could not make adequate contact with European Parliament. During the preparation of the report everyone was occupied with the election campaign. When there was a reference to the 1915 incidents, we sent a committee, but the committee did not suffice. Our ministers were also in a similar situation. Unfortunately, I think that we could not fight against these groups that try to harm Turkeys reputation. I hope that in the coming term we will be able to establish more mechanisms on this issue.
DS: As you know, Incirlik Air Base is opened for US aircraft as a part of the fight against ISIS. How do you evaluate this agreement?
VB: This agreement can be considered as the next step of the train-and-equip program in the fight against ISIS. In this manner, the agreement states that the US will be able to use Incirlik Air Base if necessary. The train-and-equip program has started to yield results. While it is not at a desired level, it is getting better. When these forces are ready to be sent into Syria, there is another requirement to be fulfilled, which is air support. If Syrian President Bashar Assads forces bomb them when we send them to fight ISIS, unfortunately, they will not be able to survive. At the moment, Assad only has his air force; he has lost his land superiority. Therefore, he has been abusing his air force to destroy cities. He will definitely use his air force against the forces we have been training. Because of this we have been saying that a no-fly zone should be established. With the no-fly zone, the forces we have been training will be able to be successful against ISIS. After establishing a safe zone and constructing housing, we are planning to return the refugees. In addition, however, there are concerns about who will replace Assad if he is deposed. This is a problematic perception. This is caused by the irrational fear that the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may replace Assad after he is deposed. However, we can see in various news outlets that the Western world is becoming more inclined toward Assads ouster. Yet they want the changes in Syria to happen without affecting the existing mechanisms.