Syrian National Coalition Says No Deal for Assad
Syrian opposition ready to negotiate peace deal to end civil war
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The opposition Syrian National Coalition announced that it is willing to negotiate a peace deal to end the civil war ravaging the country, but insisted that President Bashar Al-Assad must step down and cannot be offered any settlement.
This comes after the opposition umbrella group set strict guidelines for any talks with the Assad regime, including only dealing with members of the regime who have not taken part in the violent crackdown against the Syrian revolution.
Syrian National Coalition president Moaz Alkhatib initially come under strong criticism from many colleagues for proposing dialogue with Assad’s government without consulting with the coalition’s members. After setting a series of “guidelines” last week regarding any proposed talks, the 70-member Syrian National Coalition assembly met in Cairo yesterday where they adopted a political document demanding Bashar Al-Assad’s removal and trial.
The draft political document emphasized that Assad cannot be party to any political solution and must stand trial for the crimes committed by his regime.
Former Syrian National Council leader, Abdel Basit Sida, told Reuters, “We have adopted the political document that sets the parameters for any talks. The main addition to the draft is a clause about the necessity of Assad stepping down.”
He added, “We removed a clause about a need for Russian and US involvement in any talks and added that the coalition’s leadership has to be consulted before launching any future initiatives.”
The Syrian National Coalition’s meeting on Thursday was overshadowed by the spate of bombings across Damascus which killed at least 83 people. A car bomb exploded near the headquarters of Syria’s ruling party, killing nearly 60 people and causing widespread destruction. This was the deadliest attack to hit Damascus since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.
Both the Syrian government and the opposition blamed this attack on “terrorists.” The Syrian Foreign Ministry claimed that the attack “was carried out by armed terrorist groups linked to Al-Qaeda that receive financial and logistical help from abroad,” language that the government has used since the beginning of the Syrian revolution to denote the rebels.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast killed at least 59 people, including 15 soldiers, and wounded more than 200, which would make it the deadliest terrorist attack on Damascus since the outbreak of the civil war. State media put the death toll from Thursday’s bombing at 53.
Russia accused the United States of double standards regarding its position on Syria, blaming Washington for blocking a UN Security Council statement condemning the Damascus car bomb attack which reportedly also damaged Russian embassy buildings.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “We are disappointed that, as a result of the United States’ position at the United Nations Security Council, the terrorist act in Syria was not condemned.”
He added, “We believe this is double standards and see in it a very dangerous tendency by our American colleagues to depart from the fundamental principle of unconditional condemnation of any terrorist act, a principle which secures the unity of the international community in the fight against terrorism.”