Syrian opposition discusses political solution

On the outskirts of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change’s visit to Cairo, member Ahmad al-Israwi talked to Azzaman about the initiatives to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and the efforts to unite the opposition against the regime.

al-monitor Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) shakes hands with Haytham Manna of Syria's National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change during their meeting in Moscow, March 11, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov.

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syrian crisis, russian influence in syria, national coordination committee for democratic change, national coordination committee, iranian influence, egypt, bashar al-assad, ahmad al-assir

Jan 12, 2015

Ahmad al-Israwi, a leading member of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC), told Azzaman, “We discussed with Egyptian officials the Russian initiative and we are holding consultations with powers believing in the political solution in order to hold a meeting in Cairo.”

A delegation from the NCC visited Cairo in the past few days. The delegation discussed with Egyptian officials a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Following the visit, Azzaman met with Israwi, a leading member of the NCC.

The text of the interview follows:

Azzaman: What are the real objectives behind the visit of the NCC’s Syrian delegation to Cairo? Was it based on your own initiative or on the invitation of Egyptian officials?

Israwi: The visit was held following joint communications between the Egyptian administration and the NCC on reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Accordingly, the Egyptian administration invited us to Cairo to discuss the Russian initiative and the compatible Egyptian position, to come up with a political solution leading to a national change in our country.

Azzaman: Do you think the Russian initiative could set the foundation for resolving the crisis?

Israwi: Up to this moment there is no integrated Russian initiative, but there are proposed Russian ideas to find a solution. We have agreed on some points and objected to others. On this basis, we studied the initiative with Egyptian officials in an integrated manner.

Azzaman: There is news about an Egyptian initiative to resolve the crisis. Is that true?

Israwi: So far, we have not been informed of such an initiative and when it is presented to us, we will express our opinion.

Azzaman: Is there a correlation between your visit to Cairo and the visit by President Bashar al-Assad’s cousin to Cairo?

Israwi: There is no correlation between the two visits. President Assad’s cousin visited Cairo for professional purposes related to the naval academy. This visit had no political nature even if political issues were discussed with Egyptian officials. We do not interfere in Egyptian affairs.

Azzaman: Does this visit imply a change in the Egyptian policy toward the Syrian regime?

Israwi: The Egyptian administration, in its current or previous regimes, did not negatively interfere in the crisis. The Egyptian administration has always had a balanced position; it sided neither with the regime nor the opposition and thus it is closer to the viewpoint of the NCC that adopts the negotiation-based political solution. This is why we rely on it. We believe that Egypt is the leader of the Arab nation and is able to help the Syrian people realize their demands.

Azzaman: Is there still no Egyptian mediation between the Syrian regime and the opposition?

Israwi: We do not seek confidential indirect negotiations, as we rather believe in public negotiations whose success requires an appropriate setting. This includes the cessation of killings and destruction, the release of detainees and the provision of food and clothes to besieged areas. After this, the transitional government issues that lead to required change can be discussed.

Azzaman: The fragmentation of the opposition forces weakened their position. Will you seek, during the next phase, to unite opposition forces to reach a unified vision for a solution?

Israwi: We have already started deploying efforts to unite the opposition forces the day following the failure of the latest initiatives. About six months ago, we started exerting serious efforts in this regard and we drew a road map agreed upon by the largest part of the opposition to find a political solution to the crisis. We believe the military solution would only complicate the crisis and will not solve it. It is expected that Cairo will soon witness a meeting between the opposition forces that believe in this solution to reach a unified vision.

Azzaman: Do you believe that Iran has become more willing to abandon the Syrian regime after its negotiations with the US?

Israwi: This is how things should have been from the beginning, but Iranians have been fully biased toward the regime. However, according to what we have heard from some parties, it seems that Iran is willing to do so. We hope that there will be a change in the Iranian position and that it will come to understand that the political solution is the best solution, whether it sides with the regime or not. This is true because any political change will lead to a new regime and the current regime will not be the same.

Azzaman: How do you explain the presence of extremist organizations in Syria, mainly the Islamic State (IS) and its expansion in Syrian territories?

Israwi: We should differentiate between IS and the rest of the factions. IS is a project for an integrated state that is not line with the opposition or the regime, and it upholds a state project that is not in line with the nature of the Syrian people. I believe that the opposition is affected by IS more than the regime, as the extremist group is seeking to control the areas under the opposition’s control, and therefore it indirectly serves the regime's goals.

Azzaman: Do you believe that IS is the product of a foreign plot to break up Syria and the Arab world?

Israwi: When we talk about the Arab situation, we ought to read reality from two perspectives. The first perspective is the demands of a people that revolted for freedom, dignity and social justice in the face of a tyrannical regime and an external conflict in Syria that has been ongoing since the establishment of the Zionist entity. This conflict will drag on and the regional and international powers will try to take advantage of the situation to serve their own interests.

Azzaman: What are the repercussions of the clashes between Kurds and IS in Kobani?

Israwi: Our Kurdish brothers, along with Syrian-Arab forces, participated in repelling the IS attacks. The steadfast of Kurds of our Kurdish brothers mobilized the international community in the face of IS. I believe that IS not only seeks to enter Kobani, but wants to form a belt connecting the oil sites in northeastern Syria to Turkey, and connect its forces in Turkey and in Iraq so as to carry out the project. ...

Azzaman: What is the impact of the international coalition’s air strikes on IS?

Israwi: Although we rejected these strikes in the Syrian arena, we believe that they will not be effective unless associated with a political solution.

Azzaman: How do you explain the recent Israeli raid on Hezbollah targets in Syria?

Israwi: Israel is a colonial bastion in the region that is trying to take advantage of any development. It has nothing to do with this revolution or any other ones.

Azzaman: How do you explain the fact that the Syrian revolution has yet to achieve its goals? Does this suggest that the opposition has made some mistakes during the previous period?

Israwi: There have been attempts to drag the Syrian revolution into the regime's arena by relying on the military and security solution. Those who claim that they are friends of Syria or the regime's allies tried to corrupt the revolution. We declared that it is time for all the foreign armed forces to support the opposition, or for the regime to leave the country because they led to the destruction of the country and not to a political solution to the crisis.

Azzaman: In the end, many years after the Syrian revolution, is the regime close to aborting the revolution or will the revolution achieve its goals?

Israwi: There is no doubt that the peaceful Syrian opposition, which many have tried to veer off course, will prevail, but this could take some time in light of the international alliances that are working to bring it down before overthrowing the regime.

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