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MIDDLE EAST - EXPRESS INTERVIEW

‘How long can the Assad regime continue to evade the unavoidable path to a political solution?’

On June 4, members of the Syrian opposition called for resumed talks with Bashar al-Assad’s regime under the aegis of the United Nations. Hadi al-Bahra, a member of the Negotiating Committee representing the opposition, talks to L’Orient-Le Jour about the issues at stake in this diplomatic turning point.

The status quo was no longer an option. Following Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s return to the Arab fold, namely his reintegration into the Arab League during the May 19 summit held in Jeddah, the Syrian opposition made its aim of. adjusting itself to this altered geopolitical landscape clear..

“[The] new diplomatic activity [in the region]could represent an opportunity if it is seized,” said the UN’s special envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen before the Security Council at the end of May.

‘How long can the Assad regime continue to evade the unavoidable path to a political solution?’

Syrian political opponent Hadi el-Bahra. (Photo courtesy of Hadi al-Bahra)

On June 4, after a two-day meeting in Geneva, the Negotiating Committee representing the main movements of the Syrian opposition, said “the international and regional contexts,” and the situation in Syria were “conducive to the resumption of direct negotiations [with the Syrian government] within the framework of a precise program and timetable.”

One of its members, Hadi al-Bahra, former president of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and a member of its political committee, tells L'Orient-Le Jour the reasons behind the turn-around.

Did the opposition expect Bashar al-Assad to return to the Arab fold? What kind of relations might it now have with the Arab countries that have renewed their ties with the Syrian regime?

The normalization of Bashar al-Assad’s regime by the Arab League had been expected for months, as we were aware of the ongoing efforts and pressure exerted by Russia on the Arab countries over the past two years, as well as the efforts of several countries such as Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Iraq in favor of such normalization.

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But other crises, in Yemen and Ukraine, have accelerated this process, in that they have pushed several countries to focus on their security and national interests. This change has also been accelerated by the absence of a clear US strategy on Syria.

Indeed, most of the region’s countries felt that the US was more interested in managing the Syrian crisis than in resolving it and they also noted the American lack of eagerness to resolve other crises such as Yemen, the Iranian nuclear issue, and Iran’s growing hegemony in a number of countries in the region.

We understand that some countries are shifting their priorities according to their national interests, but we believe that granting prior confidence to the regime before it fully commits to implementing international resolutions will only encourage it to cling to the gains it has made through normalization, while refusing to move toward a political solution.

As a result, the regime will not be proposing any concrete progress, either in terms of greater stability, alleviating the suffering of Syrians, or strengthening regional Arab security.

With this in mind, we will continue our dialogue with our Arab brothers and continue to advocate our objectives and our vision of the just cause of our people and their legitimate demands, as well as the implementation of UN Resolution 2254.

We seek to strengthen the bonds of friendship, not to make enemies.

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We believe that the UN resolution is the best way to ensure Arab stability and respect for the interests of the countries in the region, as well as the withdrawal of foreign military forces and militias from Syria and the elimination of the terrorist and extremist threat in Syria and the region.

What does the opposition expect from future talks with the Syrian regime, and is it united around the decision to return to the negotiating table?

All the members of the Negotiating Committee are in complete agreement with what was stated in the final declaration of our last meeting in Geneva.

Everyone agrees on the need for full and strict implementation of Resolution 2254, and on the need to achieve a political transition within the framework of the UN-supervised process in Geneva.

The Committee, with all its components, is ready to resume serious negotiations. And I can assure you that the vast majority of Syrians believe that it is not possible to achieve lasting security without this or to guarantee peace.

So far, I do not believe that the regime has the slightest intention of complying with Resolution 2254, or the slightest desire to put in place a political solution that will lead to security and stability.

There can be no peace without justice for the oppressed, without releasing the detainees, and without revealing the fate of the disappeared. Stability and security cannot be achieved without changing the foundations of the Syrian economy and guaranteeing the return of Syrians to a sovereign and independent country.

It remains to be seen how long the regime can continue to evade the unavoidable path toward a political solution.

It is faced with a steady decline in the resources needed to guarantee the continuity of state institutions, a lack of national economic resources, the ongoing division of the country, the continued exile of Syrians, corruption that is driving capital away, a lack of professional opportunities and a lack of respect for the law.

The equation is clear: the only way out of this catastrophe is a political solution within the framework of Resolution 2254.

Are Western countries ready to support you in this new diplomatic phase?

We have solid Western support for the opening of a new round of negotiations with the regime under the aegis of the UN.

Western countries have assured us that they will continue their firm support for the opposition and the Syrian people and will press for an inclusive political solution, under the aegis of the UN, in order to implement 2254.

We reaffirm that the international community should consider normalization and reconstruction assistance only when real and lasting progress has been made toward a political solution in Syria.

This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Sahar Ghoussoub.


On June 4, after a two-day meeting in Geneva, the Negotiating Committee representing the main movements of the Syrian opposition, said “the international and regional contexts,” and the situation in Syria were “conducive to the resumption of direct negotiations [with the Syrian government] within the framework of a precise program and timetable.”One of its members, Hadi al-Bahra, former...