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.January 7, 2013 By Pierre Khalaf Article from Voltairenet.org
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, in presence of hundreds of enthusiastic supporters. These inalienable principles include the following: the sovereignty and political independence of Syria are not negotiable, therefore, Damascus will not accept any condition imposed from outside; any solution must reflects 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 to put an end to their terrorist operations, he said, denouncing “a state of war in all sense of the word”. Once these commitments 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, he said. This conference 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.
Mr. 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 then, 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 welcome 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, fronts 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.