Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Towards a Syrian political solution

 Syrian opposition figures met in Cairo this week to agree a roadmap to a political solution to the Syrian crisis. But even if agreement were reached, implementation is something else, writes Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

“This conference is different from all the previous ones held by the Syrian opposition. It will put together a comprehensive national charter and a joint roadmap for a negotiated settlement based on the Geneva Declaration and UN resolutions,” said Haytham Manna, a leading Syrian opposition figure and one of the organisers of a recent conference held in Cairo.

The two-day conference entitled, “Towards the political solution for Syria in Cairo,” discussed how to form a united opposition front to bring to an end Syria’s four-year civil war, grounding a democratic transitional government according to the Geneva Declaration.

“We are here to hold a Syrian-Syrian discussion because we are after a peaceful solution,” said Abgar Maloul, a US based independent opposition figure who belongs to the group “Values, Citizenship, Rights.”

He explained that attendees were meeting to draw a roadmap that would help bring a peaceful solution in Syria.

Ahmed Al-Asrawi, secretary general of the Arab Socialist Democratic Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the aim was to unite all opposition figures that believe in a political solution and democracy. He emphasised that the political roadmap should be based on the Geneva Declaration without amending it.

“Besides, fighting and eradicating terrorism — that all parties agree on — cannot be achieved without removing its causes, namely despotism,” he added.

Hussein Al-Oudat expressed his hope that the meeting would pave the way for a detailed roadmap that would gain the support and consent of all involved parties. He also looked towards holding a national conference that would include all the involved parties, rather than just the opposition.

“However, I believe that the involvement of numerous opposition parties as well as various regional and international players could impose obstacle towards reaching that roadmap,” he added.

More than 200 opposition figures attended the Cairo conference. They agreed on the importance of a political solution that can bring Syria out of the current crisis, and that the ruling Syrian regime should not be included in any future settlement. They also demanded the departure of all foreign fighters from the country.

While these elements are important, they are not enough to take Syria out of its current crisis, said a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The political opposition is still as fragmented as ever. That was a problem in their previous meetings, either in Geneva or Cairo. And while they seem to agree on the basic lines, their fragmentation could present a genuine obstacle to an agreement on a roadmap, or certain steps to take resolve the current crisis,” the diplomat said.

The exclusion of some groups from this week’s meeting could present another obstacle towards reaching a workable political solution. Members of the National Coalition, especially those who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, were banned from attending the meeting. However, some former members and individuals from the coalition attended.

Meanwhile, armed rebels that are chiefly comprised of Islamist fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are gradually gaining ground and influence in Syria, imposing a de facto reality that may prove difficult to change in the future.

Al-Asrawi emphasised that the opposition is basically against anyone who carries weapons. “They are not welcome in any possible settlement,” he said.

The Islamic State group recently claimed control of the historic city of Palmyra and said it roughly controls half of the total territory of the country.

Several participants in the conference agreed that foreign interference in the Syrian issue was the greatest obstacle towards reaching a political solution in Syria. There are various external parties that work for their own interests, rather than those of Syrians, at present said Maloul.

“There is no solution for the Syrian crisis without US and Russian consent. So the present meeting aim to gain the support of Egypt and other states in convincing the US and Russia that the Syrians have had enough, and that it is high time to resolve the crisis there,” he explained.

Al-Asrawi agreed. “Unless we find a way to make the international parties work to achieve our interest, we will not be able to reach a solution,” he said.

The conference, organised by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, was also attended by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi.

Shoukri, who opened the meeting, underlined the necessity of a “purely national and complete Syrian vision for a political solution”. He said that a Syrian national project must be put forward to garner the support of all sections of Syrian society, to stop violence and interference in Syrian affairs, and implement a political solution.

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