In an interview with Al-Hayat in Doha, chairman of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) Abdel-Basit Sida said that the council had informed the UN and Arab League envoy for the Syrian crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, that the transitional government being formed by the council will be devoid of any of the figures that played a role in Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
On the sidelines of the meeting of the National Council’s General Secretariat, Sida affirmed that “we told him that any talk about a national unity government that included anyone from Bashar al-Assad’s team would be pointless. This position of ours does not emanate from a sense of revenge.”
At the same time, Sida affirmed the council’s support for Brahimi’s proposal of a truce that would take effect during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
These statements came at the same time as two Syrian opposition sources said that the opposition had agreed on forming a joint military command that would oversee the battle to bring down the regime. The aim of that decision, made by dozens of opposition figures — including commanders of the Free Syrian Army in a meeting held inside Syria last Sunday — was to improve military coordination between the fighters and establish a unified command that, the sources hoped, foreign powers would be willing to arm with more powerful weapons.
An opposition source told Reuters: “An agreement has been reached; all they need to do now is sign it.”
The source added that foreign supporters had told them: “Organize yourselves and unite. To supply you with modern weaponry, we need to deal with a clear and credible group of people.”
On the other hand, Sida talked about the SNC’s refusal to allow any figures of the Syrian regime to take part in any national unity government.
“This group (the Syrian regime) is the major obstacle standing in the way of a democratic transformation, for which the Syrian people have so greatly sacrificed. There will be no participation by anyone from Assad’s decision making team,” he said. “As for any other elements of the government and even the Baath Party, all those who have not participated in the killing of Syrians and have not issued orders to kill Syrians will have a post war role to play commensurate with their abilities.”
In talking about Brahimi’s trek through the region to find a political solution — and the Syrian opposition’s view of his call for a cease fire during [Eid al-Adha] — Sida said: “We met Brahimi in Istanbul a few days ago. He told us that he was on his way to the region. We frankly expressed to him our best wishes for success. But the [peace] initiative is vague and bound by the mechanism that governs the United Nations’ Security Council, which is paralyzed as a result of the Russian veto. In the absence of a breakthrough there, we do not expect that his mission will succeed.”
He continued: “Concerning his call for a cease fire, we said that any cessation of the killing of Syrians is welcomed. But when he talks about a cease fire, it is as if he is implying that there are two factions fighting in Syria, when the truth is that there is a regime that is attacking Syrian cities, towns and villages with planes, tanks and rocket launchers, and a people who are defending themselves. No self-defense will be necessary if the regime stops firing.”
Sida stressed that “a cease fire during [Eid al-Adha] might be an acceptable humanitarian initiative. But any cease fire must begin and will endure only with the withdrawal of [regime] forces from cities and towns, and the release of all detainees.”
In reply to the Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s proposal a few days ago for the deployment of Arab forces to put an end to the bloodshed in Syria and the divergent Arab views on the matter, Sida said: “Any serious attempt to halt the killing of Syrians is laudable. And we, of course, welcome the Qatari Emir’s proposal which he put forth in front of the United Nations’ General Assembly. This proposal came as a result of facts on the ground; that the Syrian situation can no longer be tolerated, and action is necessary.
“We know that the situation is fragile in Arab countries, and the Arab League may not be able to implement such a task (sending Arab forces to Syria) because Iran and other regional powers will oppose these forces. But, in the end, (the Qatari proposal) is aimed at initiating a serious attempt to stop the killing of Syrians, for it is unacceptable that 150 to 200 martyrs fall every single day in Syria; not to mention the systematic and devastating destruction being inflicted on cities and towns.”
Sida warned that “in the absence of a solution, this situation will lead to an increase in extremism of all types and on all levels inside Syrian society, and will spread to neighboring countries in the region, as was the case lately on the Turkish border.”
In describing the meeting of the SNC’s General Secretariat, he said: “This meeting’s aim was to restructure, which we accomplished. We are now preparing for the upcoming meeting of the SNC to be held on [Nov. 4] in Doha. We also talked about setting up a meeting of all the main opposition factions on the ground, such as the Revolutionary Military Councils and representatives of local administrative groups and revolutionary movements, in addition to the real political forces on the ground, in order to discuss the tasks at hand in the next phase and the possibility of working together in order to form a body that represents all Syrians and strives to address the upcoming challenges.
“This body could be called an authority, an administration or a government; the name does not really matter, its task is what matters, because, whether we like it or not, important challenges lie ahead.”
He continued: “Starting from this moment, we can say that the transitional period has effectively begun in Syria. There are liberated areas, and the guys on the ground are running these areas and working to provide citizens with services. There has to be a body in place to oversee this task instead of leaving things to individual initiatives or people with good intentions. In the end, the situation must be brought under control.
This all comes at a time when France is organizing today a meeting to support the Syrian “civil revolutionary councils” that are administering the “liberated” regions in northern Syria. It will be attended by representatives of nongovernmental organizations and high-ranking officials from twenty countries.
Deputy spokesperson for the French foreign ministry, Vincent Floriani, said that representatives of five Syrian “civil councils” will attend the meeting organized by the ministry under the auspices of Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. He did not give any more details about the participants.
Floriani added that helping the “liberated” zones was of great interest to NGOs and states alike, and that additional meetings must be held to further develop this aid mechanism.
The issue revolves around the sharing of expertise and, maybe even, coordinating the efforts of all the initiatives that can be implemented, Floriani said.
According to French diplomatic sources, around one million people live in the “liberated areas.”