Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Syrian opposition, represented by the Syrian National Council [SNC] and the Syrian National Coordination Committee, confirmed their support for the statement issued by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe that Annan’s initiative represents “our last chance to avoid civil war.” This comes as fears increase that Syria will fall into a vortex of confrontation and reprisals ultimately leading to all-out civil war.
SNC spokesman, Walid al-Bani, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that he believes that “the implementation of the Annan initiative is not taking place in the manner that it should, because the Syrian regime has no interest is abiding by this plan.” He added “in the event that this initiative is not implemented, then the Syrians will be facing the threat of civil war, and they will have no choice but to take action against the heavily armed [Syrian] army, paying the price in their blood, even until the last.”
Al-Bani also indicated that “the outbreak of clashes between the Syrian people and the regime will threaten the vital infrastructure and social development in Syria, and the country may face dire consequences as a result.”
For his part, National Coordination Committee Executive Bureau member, Majid Habbo, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the failure of Annan’s missions will lead Syria to civil war and a state worse than hell, and there are already signs of this on the ground.” He also stressed that Annan’s initiative represents a “final opportunity for everybody, particularly the Syrian regime, to stop the violence, otherwise we will witness a disastrous outcome.”
Speaking at the end of the Friends of Syria meeting held in Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that “every day that passes means dozens of new Syrian civilian deaths” adding “it is not time to prevaricate. It is time to act.” Alluding to fears that Syria could descend into a state of all-out civil war if the Annan plan fails, Juppe said “though fragile, the Annan mission represents a last hope.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also stepped up pressure on al-Assad, calling on the UN Security Council to move towards a sanctions resolution to be enforced if Syria fails to permit an adequate monitoring mission. She said “we need to continue to work and move towards a Security Council authorization so that we have the authority to proceed when the time is right” adding “we need to start moving very vigorously in the Security Council for a Chapter 7 sanctions resolution, including travel, financial sanctions [and] an arms embargo.” Clinton even put forward the possibility of NATO invoking its mutual defence treaty in response to the “outrageous” shelling by Syria on its northern border with Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance.
SNC spokesman Walid al-Bani also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “permitting demonstrations to take place in Syria, which is one of the bullet-points provided for in Annan’s plan, would mean tens of thousands of Syrians taking to the streets to oust the regime, and this is something that they [the regime] cannot allow.” He added “I cannot imagine that the al-Assad regime will implement this plan, and the positions taken in Paris were correct, in terms of thinking about alternatives to Annan’s initiative, although we are also saying that we must give this initiative a chance at this moment, particularly as there are no alternatives, despite the fact that the blood of the Syrian people continues to be shed on a daily basis.”
Al-Bani called on the “international community to be prepared to listen to Syrian public opinion and find alternatives [to Annan’s plan]|” adding “there is very little hope in the possibility of resorting to the UN Security Council and the issuance of Chapter 7 sanctions.” The SNC spokesman asked, “if the [Annan] initiative fails, will the international community accept that the Syrian regime did not implement this and continues to kill civilians?” He also called on the international community “to take action beyond a Chapter 7 international resolution.”
Al-Bani told Asharq Al-Awsat that the SNC appreciates the call made by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal to arm the Syrian opposition. Speaking during the Friends of Syria meeting in Paris, Prince Saud al-Faisal had called on the international community to “arm the [Syrian] nationalists”, particularly as the al-Assad regime has failed to abide by the ceasefire. Al-Bani said that the Saudi Foreign Minister was a “spokesman for the conscience of the Syrians and Arabs with regards to his positions in all the conferences that have taken place on the situation in Syria.”
For his part, National Coordination Committee member, Majid Habbo, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Juppe and Clinton’s statements come within the framework of “putting more international pressure on the Bashar al-Assad regime” adding “I think these attempts to pressure the regime are in order to increase the number of international monitors [sent to Syria] and to achieve other gains from the regime, particularly as the only way to put pressure on the al-Assad regime is via external sources, via superpowers like the US, Russia and others.”
Habbo said “the stances taken by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular were restricted due to the lack of international cover” adding “the call issued by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal comes within the context of attempting to translate political support into practical support…however this requires cover from the UN Security Council or the international community.”