No transitional gov’t with al-Assad: Rebels

No transitional gov’t with al-Assad: Rebels

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
No transitional gov’t with al-Assad: Rebels

The head of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, Mouaz al-Khatib (2L), speaks during the group’s meeting in Istanbul. AP photo

Syria’s main opposition group started key talks yesterday in Istanbul to debate whether to sit at the negotiation table with the Syrian regime to end the ongoing war, as proposed by the U.S. and Russia, while not accepting any transition plan including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) is also expected to choose a new president, discuss expansion to include new members and decide the fate of an interim government, according to coalition members.

Any solution involving al-Assad will not be accepted by the coalition, according to one of its members. “We need to know if al-Assad will be in power or if he will go. It is not acceptable for us to sit with people if he will remain in power and continue to kill people in Syria. Al-Assad has to be out of any plan,” Salem al-Meslet, a coalition member, told the Hürriyet Daily News on May 23, adding that al-Assad is a red-line widely accepted among the Syrian coalition members. “This revolution in Syria is to overthrow al-Assad. How can we negotiate if he will remain there?” said al-Meslet on the sidelines of the meeting in Istanbul.

The coalition members also want to know the names that will represent the Syrian regime before the meeting in Geneva takes place. “We have to know more about the meeting in Geneva. We have to know who will represent the Syrian regime. We will not sit at the table with people involved in killings,” said al-Meslet, revealing another red line for the Syrian opposition for the meeting in Geneva.

Dissidents also aim to name a new coalition president to replace Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned in March, as well as three new vice presidents and a new secretary-general. The new president will represent the large opposition group in Geneva if the coalition agrees to attend it. Al-Meslet said the Syrian coalition will ask the opinions of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in deciding whether to attend the meeting.

 The opposition is seeking to establish a rebel government under interim Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto, while discussing the group’s expansion to include 31 new members. However, Hitto’s Cabinet may fail if the coalition decides to dissolve Hitto’s position. The coalition members will discuss the issues, including whether to attend the Geneva II meeting late May 23 and May 24. The meeting will be finalized on May 25.

‘Iran, Hezbollah risky for region, Turkey’

Manzer Makhous, the coalition’s ambassador to Paris told the Daily News that the European Union’s recent decision of partially removing the arms embargo on Syria is a hopeful development and stated his wishes for the U.S. to take such a step. Otherwise, he said, Syria would be controlled by Iran and Hezbollah and this would not be at all useful for the countries in the region including Turkey.

“We have precise information that Iranian forces and Hezbollah from Lebanon are fighting on the ground,” he added.