Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat-Moaz Alkhatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), returned from Germany to his headquarters in Cairo yesterday amid a wave of criticism and calls for his resignation. He subsequently sought to explain to skeptical members of the coalition the reasons behind his decision to hold talks with Russia and Iran, both of whom support the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
On Thursday evening Alkhatib met with the Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, after meeting with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US vice president Joe Biden. All three officials considered the fact that Alkhatib was willing to engage with the Assad regime a major step towards resolving the crisis that has been ongoing for two years.
In remarks yesterday, Salehi said Alkhatib’s stance was a good step forward, after holding a meeting with the SNC leader on the sidelines of the Munich security conference.
The Iranian minister went on to say he was pleased to have met with Alkhatib and the two of them had decided to continue talks in the future.
Alkhatib had previously issued a statement indicating his willingness to talk to representatives of the Assad regime on condition that they release 150,000 prisoners and issue passports to tens of thousands of displaced Syrians. This proposal initially drew sharp criticism from the SNC’s exiled leadership in Cairo.
However, Ali Bayanouni, a member of the SNC and political deputy chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, told Asharq Al-Awsat, The intention of SNC leader Moaz Alkhatib’s remarks, about his willingness to talk with the Syrian regime, is to enter into a dialogue only with those who do not have blood on their hands to ensure the ruling authority’s departure from power. He added, This stance is in no way contrary to the orientations of the SNC . . . Alkhatib explained the intention behind his statement- which he said reflects his personal opinion-during a meeting of the SNC’s general assembly, and the SNC would welcome any political effort in order to achieve this goal. Bayanouni, who accompanied the SNC leader in Munich, believes that some have partially misunderstood Alkhatib’s statement. He was only ever willing to engage in dialogue with those who are not responsible for the Syrian bloodshed, in order to secure the departure of the regime. Bayanouni stressed that Alkhatib’s stance has never wavered from this position.
For his part, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Munich that a dialogue between the Syrian regime and the opposition would not provide a solution to the conflict in Syria. He said, Some say there must be dialogue between the regime and the opposition, but this is the wrong way. It cannot be the solution.