President Assad proposes a Syrian plan… to those who want to listen
by Pierre Khalaf on 09 Jan 2013 0 Comment

The timing chosen by President Bashar al-Assad to propose a plan to end the crisis is not trivial. It coincided, first, with successive defeats for the armed groups, which destroyed the illusions of the United States and its European and Arab auxiliaries, distorting all their calculations, and then with information about a Russian-American meeting, mid-January, to discuss the results of the last visit to Syria of the international envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.


Mr Brahimi has already heard from President Assad the headlines of the principles that he has developed Sunday at the House of Culture and Arts, in a speech before hundreds of enthusiastic supporters. These inalienable principles include the sovereignty and political independence of Syria are not negotiable, therefore, Damascus will not accept any condition imposed from outside; any solution must reflect the will of the Syrians.


In his first speech since June 3, 2012, Mr. Assad was inflexible, ensuring that the conflict was not between the government and the opposition, but between “the Nation and its enemies” who want the partition of the country. Claiming not to have found so far a “partner” for this and refusing to negotiate with “gangs who take their orders from abroad”, he proposed a three-stage plan. But before any dialogue, countries funding terrorists should “commit to stop”, and armed men end their terrorist operations, he said. Once these are achieved, the army will immediately cease its operations, “while retaining the right to respond,” he added.


Only under these conditions a “national dialogue conference” will be opened, which will prepare a “National Charter” to be submitted to referendum and a new parliament and a new government will emerge from the polls. Any transition must “be done according to the terms of the constitution,” he said, referring to elections.


The Assad plan therefore provides three stages, which should soon be officially presented by the government to be included in a “National Charter” to be drafted by all parties before being submitted to a referendum:


Step 1: Countries arming terrorists undertake to stop the funding; cessation of terrorists operations will help the return of refugees, and the Syrian army will immediately put an end to its operations while retaining the right to respond to threats against national security; setting up a mechanism to monitor stakeholder engagement, including with regard to border control.


Step 2: Held under the auspices of the government, a conference of national dialogue involving all forces, will draft a National Charter defending the sovereignty of Syria, unity and territorial integrity, and rejecting interference, terrorism and violence. This charter must then be submitted to a referendum; parliamentary elections followed by the formation of a government extended to all segments of society, in accordance with the Constitution, in charge of enforcing the National Charter.


Step 3: Formation of a government under the Constitution; a conference of national reconciliation and general amnesty for all persons detained as a result of events; infrastructures rebuilding.

As President Assad expected, the so-called opposition represented by the Syrian National Coalition immediately rejected the plan, saying that the President wants to choose its partners and seek to stay in power. The Coalition spokesman, Walid al-Bunni, told AFP in Beirut that the opposition wanted “a political solution, but the goal is for the Syrians to overthrow (Mr. Assad)”.


President Assad said that anyway, this plan was not directed to “those who will reject it immediately, but to the true patriots who have Syria's interests in mind”. “It is useless to argue with those who take their orders from abroad, it is best to speak directly with the master rather than the slave”, he said on Sunday.


The Assad initiative comes as the United States seem to have resigned to the failure of all the pressures, sanctions and military offensives for the departure of the Syrian President. On December 29, Russia said Assad intended to remain in power until the end of his term and it was impossible to dissuade him.


During his visit to Damascus late December, Lakhdar Brahimi spoke of a plan “based on the Geneva Declaration,” providing for a cease-fire, the formation of a government with full powers and elections. The Geneva Declaration dated June 2012 provided for a transitional government but did not refer to the departure of Mr. Assad. Mr. Brahimi found this plan likely to be accepted by the international community. Damascus responded by saying it welcomed any initiative through dialogue.


After several meetings between Moscow and Washington, and several rounds of Mr. Brahimi, the diplomatic ballet intensifies in the region. Riyadh and Cairo have called for a “peaceful settlement” defined by the Syrians themselves. The head of the Iranian diplomacy goes for its part January 9 to Cairo, to meet the Egyptians and Mr. Brahimi.


All these diplomatic activities come as on the ground the Syrian army has achieved significant successes in the areas of Daraya, Moadhamiyya, Eastern Ghouta, where hundreds of rebels, including foreign fighters, were killed. The so-called “offensive for the liberation of Damascus”, launched in late November, has once again turned into a disaster for the rebels who have lost thousands of men without being able to achieve any success in the field. In the region of Aleppo, the front line stabilized. Slowly, the army is trying to retake control of parts of the metropolis still occupied by al-qaïdistes Front Nosra. Same in Homs, where the last rebels are completely surrounded in a little reduced.




Hassan Nasrallah, general secretary of Hizbullah: The border with Syria should not be shut and the refugees, regardless if they support or oppose the Syrian regime, should be hosted in Lebanon. Syria and the entire region is facing a threat of division along sectarian, religious, and ethnic lines. We fundamentally and ideologically reject any form of partition or division of any Arab or Islamic country and call for them to preserve their unity. From Yemen to Iraq to Syria, the region is threatened more than ever by partition, even in Egypt and Libya and Saudi Arabia. We, in Lebanon and in the region are living through one of the most important and dangerous phases, an atmosphere of strife. The Lebanese must commit to the unity of their nation, land, people and institutions.

Various political powers have differences on how to tackle the issue of the Syrian crisis, but they are in agreement over avoiding the spread of the unrest to Lebanon. Other powers, however, seek to spread the unrest to Lebanon through creating sectarian tensions in order to spark violence in the country. The government prevented the spread of the instability in Syria to Lebanon. Had the March 14 camp been in power, then the country would indeed have been linked to the unrest in Syria. Hizbullah has long called for calm and against being dragged into any conflict through its commitment to mutual coexistence.


The issue of refugees from Syria to Lebanon should be tackled from a purely humanitarian perspective and not be linked to political affairs. The border with Syria should not be shut for any reason. The real solution to the flow of refugees does not lie in closing the border, but in working on reaching a political solution in Syria that would help halt the bloodshed. Those responsible for the ongoing flood of refugees are the sides preventing this solution, whether from within Syria or on the regional and international scenes. Lebanon should explain to the United States, European powers, Arab League, and United Nations that it can no longer support the humanitarian and social burden of the refugees. Lebanon must also push for a political solution in Syria along with other concerned states.


Michel Aoun, leader of the Free patriotic movement: The regime of President Assad will not fall. We know how to analyze the international situation. The United States chose Syria as a battleground to undermine Russian influence in the region, to dismantle the “axis of evil” and separate Syria from Iran, and Lebanon from Syria, in order to weaken all stakeholders.


This is why we have called for dialogue to save Syria from destruction (...) I have no objection to speak with MP Walid Jumblatt, or other personality, because we are facing a national crisis. Denying the dialogue is a crime against Lebanon and its absence will lead to chaos. To start the dialogue, the majority must agree on the themes to discuss. A dialogue, by definition is to share ideas, which are most of the times, very different from each other. This is the logic of things. A meeting between Christian leaders should be held shortly in Bkirke. Personally, I am ready to start a dialogue with everyone to achieve a solution.


Salim Hoss, former Lebanese Prime minister: I do not think the players will reach an agreement on an electoral law. It seems difficult to organize elections on the basis of 1960's law, because it is seriously criticized. The Gulf countries are playing a negative role in the Arab revolutions. What is happening in Syria is very complex and goes beyond the democratic revolution. The Syrian crisis is now at the heart of international and regional policy issues. But despite what is said, the conflict did not become sectarian and religious. National feeling of the Syrians is too strong from them accept the division of their country into confessional entities or suffer a partition. If the crisis continues, no one can guarantee the safety of Lebanon.


Jamil Sayyed, former head of the Lebanese general security: If Samir Geagea proclaimed his innocence in the both assassination cases of Dany Chamoun and family's and former Prime Minister Rashid Karami, and the attacks against the Church of Our Lady of Deliverance in 1994 and if he considers that the charges which were brought against him during his incarceration were unfounded, then why did he not filed a lawsuit against officials, including Jamil Sayyed, who according to him wrongly convicted him? No logical or moral excuse explain the abstention of Geagea in prosecuting his case in order to uphold the truth. Ministers who were in charge of the justice portfolio since he was pardoned seven years ago were his political allies. But Geagea had no recourse to justice because he is satisfied with the political amnesty he received. In the past, it was said that accepting the amnesty is to recognize his sin.

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