Dissidents from Syria reveal action strategy
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
A Syrian woman holds up a copy of the Muslim holy Quran next to a Christian icons, during a demonstration in the capital Damascus. AFP photo
A secret meeting in southern Turkey between the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the self-proclaimed Free Syrian Army has resulted in the creation of a joint commission and an action plan to fight Damascus, the Hürriyet Daily News can reveal.
After meeting in Hatay, a Turkish province that borders Syria, the SNC, an umbrella group of Syrian dissidents, and the fighting force, a group of army defectors, established a “joint commission” to coordinate their struggle against the Bashar al-Assad government, the Daily News has learned.
Both parties have decided that the Free Syrian Army will “not organize any assault” against the Syrian regime anymore, and will resort to “armed resistance” only for “defensive reasons.”
“The leader of the Free Syrian Army, Col. Riad al-Asaad, has agreed that the movement in Syria will stay as civilian. [The army] will be responsible for protecting civilians during protests,” SNC Executive Committee member Ahmed Ramadan, one of the attendees at the secret meeting, told the Daily News on the sidelines of the Turkish-Arab Media Forum in Istanbul yesterday.
The Nov. 28 Hatay meeting was attended by the SNC, which is headed by Burhan Galioun, and the Free Syrian Army’s al-Asaad. Other high-ranking SNC members, including Ramadan, Sweden-based Abdulbaset Seida and Mahmoud Osman, were also present.
Four high-ranking army defectors and four high-ranking SNC members agreed to form the eight-member commission, Ramadan said. Members of the joint commission from the SNC are “the people responsible for foreign affairs, youth affairs, information and Syrian refugee issues,” Ramadan said, refusing to reveal the names of the four defectors.
“This was the first meeting in which the leaders of the SNC and Free Syrian Army came together. The aim was to create a joint action plan. This is why we formed this joint commission,” Ramadan said. A total of 10 individuals attended the Hatay meeting, which was held at a refugee camp.
Al-Asaad “expressed the commitment of the Free Syrian Army to the SNC and its program” at the meeting, according to Ramadan. “The Free Syrian Army is not going to organize any attacks against the regime anymore. Their armed resistance will strictly aim at defending themselves and the Syrian people,” Ramadan said, adding that there were “around 15,000 army defectors” in Syria.
The SNC, with a membership of over 260, was established in Istanbul in September. Galioun, who leads the organization, is based in France. The secret Hatay meeting came days after France invited non-EU member Turkey to an EU foreign ministers’ meeting to be held on the topic of Syria – an admission of Ankara’s key role in the developments. However, Turkey’s participation fell through because of reported opposition from Greek Cyprus. The French proposal was also a product of growing cooperation between Ankara and Paris over the Arab Spring in recent months.