Reconciliation minister has a ‘complete vision’ for solving crisis

Haidar says international community is key to Syrian sides working together

A boy carries a girl after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad in Bustan al-Qasr in Aleppo on Friday. Photograph: Reuters

A boy carries a girl after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad in Bustan al-Qasr in Aleppo on Friday. Photograph: Reuters

Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 01:00

Syrian reconciliation minister Ali Haidar says he has striven for months to end fighting in the country’s multiple pockets of conflict and has had some successes.

“We have a complete vision of how to solve the Syrian crisis, which has become more than a crisis. It has become an international conflict,” he says. “We believe that . . . we have to move on two parallel paths at the same time.”

The first is “the international community path” to end proxy conflicts in Syria. The second, he says, is on “the local level, [where] there has to be a comprehensive Syrian-Syrian political process”.

Progress along these two paths is essential, he adds, and the international community must help create the atmosphere for the Syrian sides to work together.

Haidar belongs to the Syrian Social National Party rather than the dominant Baath Party. His son was killed in the conflict during the 2012 parliamentary election campaign.

He says the local peace process also involves two parallel paths: a reduction of “tension and stress so Syrians can achieve truces”; and negotiations that will lead to a political solution.

“Truces and ceasefires do not constitute reconciliation but are the means to create the climate, pave the way, for political resolution to take place.”

His team has completed “a map for the whole of Syria”.

“We look at each area in terms of the situation on the ground. In areas where it is quiet, there is no violence, . . . we work in a preventive manner.

“In other areas where armed groups live . . . but there is no fighting, we work to maintain the situation and improve it gradually. In areas where there is fighting, we work for ceasefires.”

He says the “hot areas” are the most difficult. “The first step is to communicate with the leaders and initiate dialogue. The second step is to separate the Syrians and non-Syrians [who] always try to hinder any kind of communication.”


Gaining trust
His team tries to gain the trust of these leaders and provide them with the kind of assurances they require. This is followed by ceasefires and handing over weapons or, simply, halting violence. “We offer them amnesties to settle their problems with the government and enable them to go back home and to civilian life.”

Haidar says his ministry co-ordinates with other ministries to provide health and other services for these people and to form committees to facilitate the process. This includes the release of detainees not involved in killings and kidnappings, and helping to return the missing and settle issues of wanted individuals.

This approach has worked in areas around Damascus. Haidar says agreements for the two besieged areas in Homs were on their way to completion before the national guard offensive began.