In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the Geneva II talks, Hadi Al-Bahra, accused President Bashar Al-Assad’s government of using its military strength to pressure the negotiations.
He said: “The regime remains obstinate and is not being objective in its proposals. It is trying to evade addressing the main topic of the conference, which is to look for a mechanism to comprehensively apply the Geneva I communiqué and start the mechanisms to form an interim government with full executive powers.”
The Geneva II talks resumed on Wednesday after Syrian government negotiators cut short discussions in protest at a US decision to resume providing non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. Negotiations on providing aid to the besieged city of Homs remained stalled this week, with Syrian government officials asking for assurances that the aid would not find its way into the hands of rebels fighting the government.
Bahra, who is Secretary of the Political Committee of the Coalition—the western-backed opposition umbrella group—denied that securing humanitarian assistance was not a priority for the Syrian opposition.
He said: “All the humanitarian issues remain a priority in the forthcoming stage, but these issues are not [officially] within the framework of the conference. These issues come within the framework of support mechanisms and confidence-building measures. The Geneva II conference’s key objective is to achieve political transition by forming a transitional governing body.”
Regarding whether the Geneva II peace talks could achieve any progress in light of the failure to secure smaller confidence-building deals between the Damascus government and opposition, Bahra told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The regime has not made any serious response to the humanitarian issues, and this means that it is not responding to the concept of this peace conference in a responsible manner.”
He added: “One negotiates with enemies, not allies. Unfortunately the regime is using military pressure as one of its negotiating tools. Our patience has limits, and we will not be patient forever. There is certainly a deadline in our plans. When we reach the point that we believe that there is no hope for reaching a solution, we will announce our position to the international community.”
The Geneva II peace talks are scheduled to end on Friday with experts not expecting any major breakthroughs in the next few days given the initial positions taken by both sides. Commenting on reports that Assad may seek to stand for forthcoming presidential elections, Bahra told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I suggest that he polls Zaatari Refugee Camp [in Jordan] and we will see if he will succeed there.”