Syria rejects Geneva plan for political transition


THE SYRIAN regime and opposition groups have rejected a plan for the formation of a transitional government agreed by world leaders in Geneva and accused them of failing to come up with a solution for the bloody stand-off.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, which organise protests, argued that the inability of the powers to adopt a common stance gave government forces time to try to crush the rebellion.

In their final communique the five permanent UN security council members together with Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar called for “clear and irreversible” steps towards a political transition without defining the fate of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia, which funds and arms the rebels, Iran, a regime ally, the government and the opposition were not invited to the talks.

The statement of the gathering – also attended by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and Arab League head Nabil El-Arabi – said a transitional body would be established by “mutual consent”. It would write a new constitution and organise fresh elections.

The communique stated that the transitional body could contain members of the government, but did not exclude Dr Assad and his entourage, who are flatly rejected by the western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) formed by expatriates, the rebel Free Syrian Army, and some domestic opposition groups.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton reiterated her contention that Dr Assad “will . . . have to go . . . He will never pass the mutual consent test, given the blood on his hands.”

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius agreed, saying the text implied that Dr Assad would be obliged to step down. “The opposition will never agree to him, so it signals implicitly that [he] must go and that he is finished.”

However, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov contradicted both, saying the plan did not demand his removal and there was “no attempt in the document to impose on the Syrian people any type of transitional process”.

Syria-based opponents argue that the plan is unrealistic since the government says it will not cede power to anybody, including the Muslim Brotherhood, represented in the SNC and the militias fighting government forces.

Nevertheless, the author of the plan, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, said he expected the two sides to appoint interlocutors to begin talks. He warned that the conflict posed extreme dangers to the region and the world, and castigated countries with competing agendas for creating deadlock and stoking the conflict.

A meeting of the US-sponsored Friends of Syria scheduled for July 6th aims to create a united front among divided opposition groups to promote Mr Annan’s proposal. Neither Russia nor China will attend.

In Syria up to 83 people were reported to have been killed when troops recaptured Douma, a town north of Damascus dominated by Saudi-supported ultra-orthodox Sunni Salafis, and mortars were fired at a funeral procession at Zamalka, east of the capital, killing 30.