Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

End in sight?

Syrian opposition members meeting in Cairo have come up with a ten-point plan to help end the conflict in the country, writes Bassel Oudat in Damascus

Al-Ahram Weekly

Syrian opposition figures meeting in Cairo last week announced a ten-point plan to help end the war in their country. However, observers say the plan will be hard to implement without international support. Organised by the Egyptian ,Council for Foreign Affairs, the Cairo meeting produced a declaration that loosely mirrors the Geneva Conference final communiqué, although hard-line opposition members say it is too soft on the regime.

The ten-point plan calls for the creation of a democratic and civil state and urges international community sponsorship of any future deal. It lays down certain conditions for future talks, including the release of detainees, return of refugees, discontinuation of attacks on civilians and provision of humanitarian relief to besieged areas.

The plan also urges the restructuring of the military and security institutions and the termination of all non-Syrian military activities in the country. It makes the fight against terror a top priority for any future government.

Opposition figures attending the meeting called for a larger national conference to be held in Cairo in April.

Not all the country’s opposition groups have been satisfied with the ten-point plan. Some want a more conciliatory approach towards the regime, while others favour a tougher stance.

Representatives of the opposition State Building Current walked out of the Cairo meeting, saying that it wanted to see the opposition and the regime come up with a coalition government to end the conflict. The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF) also appears to be in two minds about the Cairo talks.

Mohamed Sabra, an opposition member and Republican Party leader, declined to attend the meeting, hinting that, in his view, the Cairo participants had betrayed the revolution. “The Cairo Declaration calls for the formation of a joint interim governing body with full powers, whereas the Geneva final communiqué speaks of an interim governing body with full executive powers,” he said.

There is a “huge difference between an authority with full powers and an authority with full executive powers. The latter must have the powers of the president and the cabinet, whereas the former could allow [Syrian president] Bashar Al-Assad to stay in office,” Sabra added.

“The Cairo Declaration has left out any mention of the regime and of retribution for the crimes it has committed against the Syrian people,” Sabra said, adding that it had to be borne in mind that Syria is “undergoing a revolution and not a power struggle.”

NCSROF member Hesham Morowwa was satisfied with efforts to unite the opposition. The NCSROF is in favour of “any constructive decisions that bring us closer to a political settlement according to the Geneva Declaration,” he said.

Fayez Sara, a NCSROF member and key figure in the Democratic Rally, said that the Cairo initiative offered Al-Assad “no place in Syria’s future.”

Aside from the conflicting interpretations of its significance for the regime, the Cairo Declaration may be hard to enforce. For a deal to stick, it will require not only national consensus but also the commitment of the international community and the support of the armed opposition groups on the ground.

None of these conditions has been met, which makes the Cairo Declaration either a first step on a long road or another footnote in a protracted crisis. One of the sticking points in the declaration, as some opposition members have noted, is the absence of measures for transitional justice, without which it may be hard for the country to come to terms with its past.

A committee from the Cairo talks plans to brief opposition groups on the contents of the ten-point plan. If the committee succeeds in rallying enough support for the plan, then the Cairo talks may at least serve as the foundation for a future deal.

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