Syrian interim government head rejects Iran's participation in Geneva II

Ahmad Tohme, prime minister of the Syrian interim government, said the opposition is going to the Geneva II conference but only to implement the Geneva I accord, not to start endless discussions with the regime.

al-monitor French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) speaks with Syrian interim government Prime Minister Ahmad Tohme before a meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Paris, Dec. 5, 2013. Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images.

Topics covered

syrian opposition, gulf cooperation council, geneva ii

Dec 26, 2013

Ahmad Tohme, prime minister of the interim Syrian government, said that the situation on the ground is “tragic in light of the continuing bombardment by explosive barrels” by Syrian regime forces in several areas. He appealed to Gulf and Arab countries to support the interim government, warning Western nations about their “failure” and the implications of radicalism and extremism.

In an interview with Al-Hayat in Doha on Dec. 23, Tohme said, “We told the international community that if you don’t intervene positively to reach a just political solution to the Syrian crisis, the results would be disastrous for us and you. Don’t think that you’re safe from the major effects of the backlash to the problems of ‘radicalism and extremism.’”

“The people are steadfast in the face of the regime, and they want us to help them in their steadfastness. This is the main reason for our visit to our brothers in Qatar and for our meeting with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani,” Tohme added. He said that he asked “for Qatar’s help in relief and humanitarian support for the interim government in order to do our duties to the people. ... The emir’s response was positive. Their hearts are with us, and our hearts are with them. We have received good things that serve the Syrian people.”

Tohme continued, “The closer we get to the Geneva II conference, the more the regime bombs Aleppo and increases the destruction to weaken the people’s morale. [The regime] believes that it is scoring points in its favor, but the opposite is true.” He mentioned “the legendary steadfastness of the people and our brother revolutionaries,” and stressed, “It is time to reclaim our freedom in order for us to work on our country’s development.”

Tohme directed his appeal to “our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab states. We appeal to them and tell them that it is necessary to make all efforts to rescue the people. The more we try to save them, the more we support their steadfastness and help them get out of their predicament. The extreme cold is having catastrophic effects.”

He urged the Gulf and the Arab states to “intervene to save the Syrian people from this tragedy. The reaction of our Gulf and Arab brothers is positive. They expressed their willingness to provide all the support they can to help the steadfastness of the people.”

Tohme said the interim government needs assistance with the “operating budget, i.e., financial support, in order to increase our staff, which would serve the people. We are in dire need of aid, humanitarian relief, [as well as] aid for health, education and local councils [to] restore stability and security in the liberated areas. ... Without organizing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) there will be no security or stability. We need to support the government in order for it to perform its duties to the fullest.”

He continued, “We want our Gulf and Arab brothers to support the FSA and the interim government, and to stand by us, because we’re going to have a tough fight if we are going to go to the Geneva II conference.” He expected the Syrian National Coalition to “participate in the conference, which is a procedural conference to set up a transitional body with full powers, including control over the army and intelligence services, and all vital facilities. And this implies that Bashar al-Assad will not have a place in the transition body. ... We are going to Geneva with one goal in mind: the interest of the people and to begin forming a transitional body with full powers. Bashar and his gang, who have been killing the people for over 50 years, will have no place in the transitional body.”

When asked about Western countries’ concerns about extremist groups, he replied, “This is one of the most serious problems faced by the Syrian people. It was caused by two parties. First, the regime’s killing and destruction forced [the Syrian people] to go to the extreme in their confrontation. Second, the international community’s failure to support the Syrian people or to perform its duties. ... We say to the international community: If you do not intervene positively [to help achieve] a just political solution to the Syrian crisis, the results will be disastrous to us and you. Do not think that you are safe from the backlash of these major global problems.”

On Moscow’s position, Tohme said, “We have noticed that Russia is reviewing some of its positions,” pointing out that the president of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba will visit Moscow soon to “ask why have the Russians taken a pro-Syrian regime position, especially since the Russian and Syrian peoples have had a positive historical relationship.” He expressed his hope that a shift in the Russian position would be “in the right direction, the direction chosen by the Syrian people.”

In response to another question, he said, “The Iranians are determined to stick to their position. They reject Geneva I, and they will not accept the output of Geneva II. They will continue to kill the Syrian people through their continued support for the regime. ... The Iranians have still not abided by these determinants. On what basis will they participate [in Geneva II]? We insist that the Geneva II conference be a means to implement the Geneva I accord. We are not going to renegotiate or to hold discussions that go on for years. We’re going to sign on the formation of a transitional government body. Otherwise, what’s the meaning of Geneva II?”

More from  Mohammad al-Makki Ahmad

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