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US reservations on Turkish plan to ‘Rescue’ Syrian regime- sources | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Arbil, Asharq Al-Awsat- In spite of the differences that plague it, the Syrian opposition has carried out an important step with the formation of a “National Salvation Council” to pose a new challenge to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has intensified its military campaign to crush the uprising against its rule. Twenty five council members are due to meet to select an executive board of 11 individuals, who will monitor the events and latest developments.

An opposition meeting was held in the Turkish city of Istanbul the day before yesterday, one day after the largest Syrian protests to date, during which at least 32 civilians were killed, including 23 in the capital Damascus. The meeting hoped to incorporate the opposition in Syria via a video conference with another meeting taking place in Damascus, but this was cancelled after the Syrian security forces targeted the Damascus conference venue, within the framework of a brutal repressive campaign in the capital on Friday.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has previously warned al-Assad’s government, calling upon the regime to either implement reforms or face the possibility of being overthrown by democratic forces. Davutoglu, who earlier urged al-Assad to introduce reforms as a means of “shock therapy”, said that “any government that does not take into consideration the demands of its people will not last.” He added: “Al-Assad has said he will form multi-party groups in parliament. I hope that Syria has opposition parties [in the future] and that these parties raise their voice.”

Meanwhile, a Kurdish leadership source speaking to Asharq al-Awsat revealed a Turkish plan to alleviate the Syrian regime from its current predicament. The source said in an exclusive statement that “the Turkish position has begun to constitute a threat to the future of the Syrian revolution, as we have received information about a recent understanding between the Turkish government and the regime in Damascus. The crux of this [understanding] is the formation of a transitional government of unspecified length, in which the Muslim Brotherhood would have an active role, in addition to figures representing other opposition parties. This would be preceded by the withdrawal of the army to its barracks, the end of repression against demonstrators by the security forces, the implementation of civil reforms that the regime has previously announced, the dissolution of the Baath Party, and the establishment of a basis for new political life. In return, the Turkish side would endeavor to find an outlet to convince the opposition to restrain from protesting, and engage in a dialogue with the authorities, with Turkish participation.”

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that “according to the information made available to us, the Americans have expressed reservation about the Turkish plan, because they are not convinced by the sincerity of the Syrian regime, and its respect for its promises.” The US has also stressed that “the opposition inside Syria will be the party to decide [the country’s] future.”

The source added: “Within this framework, amendments have been made to the program of the Syrian National Salvation conference, which was held in Istanbul on Saturday, in which the Muslim Brotherhood’s attendance was both extensive and remarkable. Considerable pressure was put on conference chairman Haytham al-Malih to abandon the idea of forming a shadow government, and instead stress the Arab character of Syria in the document that was drafted in Damascus, thus ignoring the Kurdish element of Syria’s composition, and portraying the Kurds as an immigrant minority whose rights are limited to equal citizenship.”

The source added: “The Turkish Government, through the Muslim Brotherhood, has contributed to the failure of the conference by all standards, despite a final statement being issued by the meeting. Turkey is not concerned with the results of the many conferences that have been mostly held in Turkey, as much as it is concerned with exporting its ally, the Muslim Brotherhood, to Syria and ensuring that it is accepted on the levels of the street and the authority there.” He alluded to what happened in the Antalya or Brussels conferences, which were held with Turkish support, or the recent conference in Istanbul, during which the secular and democratic forces were marginalized, particularly the Kurds, to the point that many political blocs pulled out.

Regarding the withdrawal of the Kurdish side from Istanbul conference, the source added that “the parties representing the Kurdish movement in the country, of which there are 11, have refused to participate in the aforementioned conference because it was prepared suddenly and hastily. Furthermore, those responsible for preparing the conference do not view the Kurdish issue at an appropriately realistic level to reflect the Kurdish reality in Syria. We believe that the Syrian people are comprised of two main ethnic groups; the Arabs and the Kurds, in addition to other ethnic minorities, and any conference on the future of Syria should have an open and clear stance on the Kurdish partner.”

For his part, political opposition activist Shirzad al-Yazidi said that “the Kurds were not represented in the Salvation Conference in Istanbul, and it is said that they pulled out because those in attendance were mere individuals who do not represent the Kurdish movement, or the Kurdish cultural and youth elite. Their attendance at the Istanbul conference, and the Antalya conference before it, was merely ceremonial, an attempt to circumvent the real representatives of the Kurdish people in the Kurdish national movement parties and the political elites.” He added: “What is strange is the convening of successive conferences in Turkey, as if God did not create any other place on the map! As Syrian Kurds, we have fundamental reservations and legitimate concerns about this Turkish effort to form an opposition that has Islamic tendency, by relying mainly on the Muslim Brotherhood which is known to hold joint values with the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey. The alternative to the ruling mob in Damascus must be a democratic one that is agreed upon by all Syrians, both the Arabs and the Kurds, and not a tyrannical alternative that is tailored to well-known regional standards.”

Al-Yazidi said: “Frankly speaking, such stagnant conferences are providing a great service to the stagnant regime, by diluting the efforts exerted to create an active national Syrian opposition such as the National Coordination Commission, which is the largest umbrella for the Syrian Arab and Kurdish opposition. Turkey is not a neutral state with good intentions towards the Syrian people; it occupies part of Syrian territory. Furthermore, for us as Kurds, Turkey is enacting a policy of systematic terrorism towards the Kurdish people there, and rejects Kurdish peace calls to resolve the Kurdish issue in Turkey. This has recently entered a historic stage with the Kurds declaring self autonomy for certain areas in Turkey, and this represents a model for resolving the Kurdish issue in Syria too, through granting Kurdish areas greater self administration within the framework of a civil and pluralistic democratic state, after the end of the Baath Party era. For those who gamble on ignoring the Kurdish movement, and attempt to create alternatives to it in the Antalya and Istanbul conferences, this will not serve the effort to unite and intensify the opposition and the uprising against tyranny.” He concluded his statement by saying that “Last Friday, the severity of such a gamble was exposed in the Syrian Kurdish city of Amuda, when a reckless Kurdish group, within the framework of transferring the agenda of the Antalya conference to the Kurdish issue in Syria, tried to attack revolting Kurdish youths under the pretext that they were carrying Kurdish emblems and flags. This act provoked their esteemed Syrian patriotism at the expense of their Kurdish affiliation. Yet raising Turkish flags and images of Turkish leaders will never provoke such patriotism. We are Kurds before we are Syrians, and our participation, with our Kurdish identity and character, in the popular uprising against regime in Damascus is a sacred right which we will not allow to be encroached upon or undermined. The future Syria will be decorated by its various ethnic and religious colors, and will be a partnership state for the Arabs and the Kurds.”