DAMASCUS, (AFP) —Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad vowed Sunday to continue protests until his “tyrannical” regime is overthrown, as the embattled leader praised Moscow’s “balanced” position on the unrest in a meeting with Russian lawmakers.
“We need to end the tyrannical security regime. We must overthrow the tyranny and the security (agents). We welcome all those who have no blood on their hands,” said Hassan Abdel Azim, a member of the opposition National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change.
The group, which includes opposition parties of various ideologies, including Arab and Kurdish nationalists, Marxists and independent figures such as writer Michel Kilo and economist Aref Dalila, met near the capital on Saturday to discuss how to end the crisis.
Syria has been rocked by protests against Assad that began on March 15 and triggered a brutal crackdown in which the United Nations says 2,600 people have been killed.
Assad Sunday praised Moscow’s “balanced” position on Syria, in talks with a Russian delegation on a mission to help end the government crackdown on protesters.
Assad welcomed the “balanced and constructive Russian position toward the security and stability of Syria,” the state-run SANA news agency reported.
It said Assad denounced “attempts to destabilise Syria through armed terrorist operations, both civilian and military,” and warned against “any foreign intervention that threatens to divide states in the region.”
Assad’s government has blamed the protests on “armed terrorist gangs.”
Russia has continued to support Assad despite the crackdown on protests that the United Nations estimates to have killed around 2,600 people, and has been a bulwark against any Security Council resolution condemning the regime.
Ilyas Umakhanov, deputy head of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, held discussions with Assad that were “open, trust-based and substantial,” Russia’s Interfax news agency said.
“It confirmed that the country’s leadership understands that one can only overcome a political crisis by uniting all the country’s healthy political forces.”
“We once again saw for ourselves that the country’s leadership intends to firmly move along the path of political reforms, create all the necessary conditions to consolidate society and all the patriotic forces of the country,” the Russian senator was quoted as saying.
The Russian delegation also plans to visit the flashpoint town of Daraa and opposition cities of Homs and Hama, according to Interfax.
The opposition, meanwhile, is trying to unite against the regime.
Opponents plan to announce the formation of a coalition that includes the Coordinating Committee, liberal parties of the opposition “Damascus Declaration,” the Muslim Brotherhood and independent Islamists.
Several coalitions or councils have also been set up abroad, under the leadership of exiled opposition figures.
“For the overthrow of the tyrannical and corrupt security regime and for democratic change, the peaceful revolution of the Syrian people must continue,” said a statement read Sunday by Abdel Aziz Khayer of the Coordinating Committee.
To find a way out of the crisis, “we must end the military solution, allow peaceful protests, withdraw the army to the barracks, try those responsible for the massacre of protesters, release all political prisoners and begin reconciliation between the army and the people,” the statement added.
Another committee member, Rajaa Nasser, said that “all movements of the Syrian opposition agree on the need for change. The majority reject any military intervention” in Syria, he added.
Samir Aita, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique in Arabic and European representative of the Coordinating Committee, announced a September 23 meeting in the German capital Berlin.
“It is necessary to unify (opposition) efforts for the change to happen,” he said, adding that it was important that the various opposition currents should “unite around common goals.”
The meeting on Saturday elected an 80-member central council, with young members representing more than a quarter of the board.