Activist says negotiation is the only way forward


OPPOSITION:AHEAD OF the visit of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to Damascus today, local opposition activist Mona Ghannem argues that Moscow cannot hope to resolve the conflict in Syria.

“What is needed is a conflict resolution approach . . . We must find neutral individuals or groups to mediate,” she says. She regrets the Arab League’s withdrawal of its monitoring mission which, in her view, could have played a mediatory role and helped to establish the required group.

“The opposition outside”, represented by the Syrian National Council (SNC), “should support the opposition inside the country, not the other way around,” Dr Ghannem, spokeswoman for Syria-based organisation Building the Syrian State, says. Exiles have “seized control” and opposition activists inside the country are “still trying to get it back”.

“Negotiations are the only way” to resolve the situation. The SNC should not reject talks with the government. “All key players must be involved. It is not important where to hold discussions and who hosts them. Discussions must be based on a clear agenda aimed at taking the country to the transitional period. Any solution must provide for equal treatment for minorities, recognition of national sovereignty and security.”

Dr Ghannem dismisses as unimportant the Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council of a resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down to facilitate the transition from Baath party rule to multi-party democracy. She believes the vetoes could have a positive effect by forcing “Syrians to solve their problems by themselves”.

“Even if the resolution had passed, the Syrians would still have had to go for a political solution.”

The games people are playing in Syria are growing increasingly dirty. There is a lot of exaggeration” of casualties, she says, particularly on the part of exile groups in the SNC. “Contradictory data” is provided to the media to dramatise the situation for political ends.

She argues that this was especially true last weekend with reports of government attacks on Homs only hours ahead of the council vote. She accuses the SNC, which has the support of the West, of fanning the flames of conflict.

“We are trying to unite the international opposition behind a common programme which promotes negotiations, prepares for the transition and rejects external intervention,” says Dr Ghannem.