Syrian opposition leader: Jordan key to ending crisis
Reported by Taylor Luck | Dec 21,2011 | 00:17
Demonstrators protest against Syria’s President Bashar Assad in Al Midan district in Damascus on Monday (Reuters photo)
TUNIS — Jordan is set to play a critical role in ending ongoing violence in Syria, according to a leading Syrian opposition figure.
Burhan Ghalioun, president of the Syrian National Council (SNC), said that from the establishment of a buffer zone to placing diplomatic pressure on Damascus, decision makers in Amman can have a huge impact on the success of a movement to end a months-long military crackdown on civilian protesters.
“The position and support of Jordan will be key for us to end this conflict and build a new Syria,” Ghalioun told The Jordan Times in an interview on the sidelines of a general conference in the Tunisian capital on Monday, the group’s first gathering since its formation in Istanbul in October.
The formation of a buffer zone along the Kingdom’s borders with Syria is an “important first step” towards guaranteeing protection of Syrian civilians, Ghalioun added.
That the SNC, a loose coalition of opposition parties, political dissidents, tribes and youth movements, has yet to receive official recognition from Jordan, which along with other Arab states has maintained diplomatic relations with Damascus.
“Jordan is following the Arab League’s consensus and we respect its position,” said Ghalioun.
“There are ongoing contacts between the council and the Jordanian government in this regard, and we are hopeful that the Arab world in general and Jordan in particular, will grant us recognition soon,” the opposition leader said.
Activists admitted that the council has at times struggled to reach consensus on the issue of foreign intervention, which Ghalioun admitted has become a sensitive subject in the Arab and Islamic worlds.
“We are not against intervention in theory, and we are realistic that the opening of a humanitarian corridor will require international intervention,” Ghalioun said.
“But we are against any military or diplomatic action that will destabilise Syria or affect its neighbours, including Jordan,” he added.
Ghalioun dismissed Damascus’ acceptance of Arab League monitors on Monday as a “ploy” to prevent Arab foreign ministers from placing the Syrian file in the hands of the UN Security Council, pointing out that within minutes of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem’s press conference to announce the move, three civilians were killed in the Jabal Zawiya area.
“This regime has proven time and time again it is a regime of lies and brutal force,” Ghalioun said.
During a three-day meeting in which the movement staked its position on a series of domestic and foreign issues ranging from minority rights to diplomatic representation, members agreed that the success of any measure to bring the conflict to an end will rely heavily on Syria’s neighbours.
According to council leaders, following thorough study, the SNC advocates a series of buffer zones to receive civilians and army defectors in the north, south and west, including the Jordanian-Syrian border, to end the conflict.
“We need a buffer zone along each border to ensure the protection of civilians and a buffer zone in the south along the Daraa-Ramtha region will be an important part of this plan,” said Basma Al Qadmani, SNC executive committee member.
Syrian activists believe that in addition to providing protection to civilians, the humanitarian corridors would allow space for opposition figures within Syria to regroup and organise, a move they believe will pave way for the defection of “thousands” of Syrian officers and soldiers.
“Jordan can play an even greater role as we move towards gaining international support for this initiative,” Qadmani added.
Opposition figures stressed that while there is ongoing “coordination”, they believe Jordan must do more to support an opposition movement they claim will be key to freeing Syria from four decades of Baath Party rule.
No official in Amman was available to comment on the opposition figures’ remarks, but Jordan has summed up its position on Syria in its rejection of international interference, condemnation of the Syrian authorities’ crackdown on peaceful protesters and rejection of the idea of the buffer zone near its border.
“Jordan has done good work to welcome displaced Syrians and offer humanitarian assistance and we thank our Jordanian brothers in this regard,” said Khaled Uqla, a member of the SNC’s foreign affairs division.
“But while it is a great help to relieve the humanitarian burden, it is not enough to end the conflict.”
According to the SNC, the council’s recently formed foreign affairs department will work to lobby Amman along with other Arab governments to take a series of measures, including the opening of a civilian field hospital along the northern border to receive Syrians fleeing from military crackdowns and the enforcement of a humanitarian aid corridor.
Despite its proximity, SNC leaders ruled out the possibility of Amman acting as a base for the council — which currently has an office in Istanbul and is set to open a branch in Cairo — stressing that the opposition movement is aware of the “diplomatic sensitivity” of the move.
“We do not want to improve our efforts to end the Syrian conflict at the expense of Jordan’s national interests,” said council member Adib Shishakli.
Activists say the SNC is following the issue of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey “closely” and is expected to launch a campaign “soon” to gather international assistance for a refugee community that claims they have been overlooked by the international community and let down by the council’s inactivity.
“We are aware that Syrians in Jordan face difficult conditions, as many of us have been, and continue to be refugees,” said Radif Mustafa, a Kurdish lawyer and head of the council’s human rights department.
During the three-day conference, the council moved to advocate the Free Syrian Army, a growing movement of soldiers and officers that have defected from the Syrian military over the past several months, to “protect civilians and protesters” and not use unnecessary force that could push Syria towards civil conflict.
“We as the council do not support any action that will lead to violence which pits army against army, side against side, region against region,” Ghalioun said.
“But there is a difference between aggression and protecting innocent civilians.”
Despite the comparisons of the Syrian conflict to Libya, Ghalioun stressed that Syrian revolutionaries “will not follow the Libyan or Iraqi models” but rather their own path, one that will depend greatly on Syria’s southern neighbour as the conflict drags on.
“We are one people with one destiny and with the help of our Arab brothers, together we can ensure a successful and peaceful revolution.”
December 21,2011 at 10:23 am
the crisis will end if Asad die!!!!
Jordan will play for gold when they meet Bahrain in the football competition at the Pan-Arab Games in Doha on Friday. Full story