Syria’s opposition meet in Cairo, discuss means to “end the war”

Published December 29th, 2014 - 07:03 GMT

Discussions in Cairo between Syrian opposition officials are focusing on an ambitious proposal to form a transitional government and elect a president eligible for two four-year terms, Al-Mayadeen television said Sunday.

The proposal also envisions an end to Baath Party control over state institutions, during a three-month period, and the cancellation of all laws that “restrict freedoms,” the report said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said that Syria’s opposition had indicated its agreement in principal to attend meetings in Moscow, according to the Anadolu news agency, but did not mention the plan reportedly being floated.

“We should leave no stone unturned, especially if this will be in the best interests of the Syrian people,” Shukri was quoted as saying.

A member of the opposition-in-exile National Coalition had earlier stated that his group preferred not to open a new set of talks with the regime, insisting on the 2012 Geneva communiqué as a basis for talks.

Badr Jamous said the opposition preferred to resume the Geneva format, even though a round of talks earlier this year ended in failure. The Geneva process envisions the establishment of a transitional political body with “full executive powers,” which would exclude a role for President Bashar Assad.

Russian officials have expressed public support for the Geneva communiqué of 2012, although their latest attempt to bring the opposition and regime representatives together appears to be based on a significantly different plan, which would leave Assad in power. The document, as reported by Al-Mayadeen, makes an explicit reference to the Geneva formula as the basis for negotiations.

The ambitious document envisions a full amnesty and the establishment of a “military council” made up of Syrian military figures and “fighters who believe in a political solution and a democratic transition,” the television report said.

Coalition president Hadi Bahra, in a statement issued by his group, mentioned only his misgivings over another proposal, being promoted by U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, which calls for a “freeze” in fighting in the city of Aleppo.

On Saturday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said it was willing to attend talks in Moscow.

“Syria is ready to participate in a preliminary and consultative meeting in Moscow to respond to the aspirations of Syrians who are trying to find a solution to the crisis,” the Foreign Ministry official said, quoted by SANA state news agency.

The decision followed talks between Syria and Russia about a possible meeting, the official said.

“The Syrian Arab Republic has always been ready for dialogue with those who believe in its unity, sovereignty and freedom of choice,” the official added.

Bahra on Saturday stated that the Russian proposal remained vague.

“There is no clear Russian initiative, only an [informal] invitation to meet and talk in Moscow,” Bahra told reporters. He added that his group had not received any formal invitation to talks in Moscow.

He said, however, that the Coalition had begun talks with “other Syrian opposition groups,” which he did not identify, in Cairo and elsewhere. During these discussions “each side presents its views, and I don’t see wide gaps between these views,” Bahra said.

Last week, an opposition figure from a group tolerated by the Syrian regime said that dissidents would meet in Cairo to discuss ways to end the war.

“Several opposition groups and individuals have been in talks for more than two months, and we have been in contact with them to try to reach a joint vision to solve the crisis,” said Munzer Khaddam of the National Democratic Body for Democratic Change.

A “national gathering” is planned in Cairo, followed by a second meeting in Moscow, Khaddam told AFP without giving a timetable.

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