Brussels, Asharq al-Awsat — Syrian opposition figures, most notably former Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam and Muslim Brotherhood Controller General Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni, held meetings in Brussels that ended yesterday with approval of a “working program” for change in Syria. The conferees announced after the meetings the establishment of the “National Salvation Front” for changing the regime in Syria by peaceful means. One of the participants asserted that the meeting “adopted the national program for change document” and that the National Salvation Front would work for changing the Syrian regime “by peaceful means.”
In Damascus, Syrian political sources downplayed the importance of the meetings that Syrian opposition parties hold outside the country and stressed to “Asharq al-Awsat” yesterday they did not attach much importance to such meetings, the issues and ideas they discuss, and their decisions that do not express the Syrian people’s aspirations. These sources said: “There is no one in Syria who follows up such meetings or attach special important to them, especially in the present conditions.” They stressed that anyone who wants to serve his country, whether he is an oppositionist or loyalist, is supposed to work inside his country and not outside it and not rely on foreign forces that encourage him if not give him direct backing.
On its part, the “Provisional Committee of the Damascus Declaration”, which includes opposition Syrian parties and secular figures inside the country, stated that the “Damascus declaration” has nothing to do with the meeting between Khaddam and Al-Bayanouni “which concerns those people alone.” The “Damascus Declaration” group issued a statement last October, which the Muslim Brotherhood endorsed, in which it called for a “radical and democratic change” of the existing Syrian regime.
Khaddam met with the outlawed MB’s controller general in Brussels last month and they decided to contact the Syrian opposition parties in order to intensify the pressures. Representatives of other movements opposed to the regime took part in these meetings besides Khaddam and Al-Bayanouni and they included Pan-Arabists, liberals, Islamists, Kurds, and communists. Discussion at these meetings covered the establishment of a democratic government and forming a united front for that purpose.
The parties participating in the meeting announced they reached a “roadmap” and also agreed on a joint program for democratic change in Syria. Khaddam announced in Brussels that he came to the Belgian capital to take part in the Syrian opposition’s meetings because French laws ban him as a political refugee from carrying out these activities in France or make statements. He added that he was expecting new conditions to happen in Syria in the coming months and before the end of this year.
On his part, the MB controller general was eager to explain that the Syrian opposition approved a “secular constitution” and that his movement considers itself moderate “and will not seek to impose the Islamic Shariaa laws in Syria.” He added that the people would turn to the Islamic tendency “if there are democratic conditions.”
Ubaydah Nahhas, the director of the London-based Arab East Institute who is close to Al-Bayanouni, stressed that the opposition intends to follow peaceful ways and said the meeting did not include oppositionists from inside “because of the security situations and the repeated arrests of oppositionists who take part at meetings held abroad.” Husam al-Diri, leader of the National Liberal Democratic Party, said this was the first time that the opposition movements from inside and outside Syria sat at one table and agreed on a joint action program.
One of the most prominent points in the national change program is that the constitution will be democratic for a secular state that respects pluralism and the government will be transitional that enacts an elections law on the basis of proportional representation.