The head of the Syrian opposition coalition, Salem al-Maslat, told:
– So far, the international envoy has not announced a new date for the constitutional committee’s tour
The international community focused its efforts on humanitarian issues without paying attention to the political solution
We seek to make the international community understand that Russia is their “god” with side matters
The head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Salem Al-Maslat, criticized the international community’s focus on the humanitarian file in Syria, and the neglect of interest in a “political solution.”
This came in an interview conducted by Anatolia in Istanbul, Turkey, with Al-Maslat, who assumed the presidency of the coalition last July.
Al-Maslat touched on the efforts of the UN envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, who met with the opposition in Istanbul last Tuesday, after a similar meeting with the Syrian regime a few days ago in Damascus.
Al-Maslat said that Pedersen “has not yet announced a new date for the constitutional committee’s tour, and we will see what he has.”
He added: “But I think that what he brought is a procrastination from the regime, which is what we have been used to since the beginning of Geneva, but we want to talk to him (Pederson) frankly that this file must move.”
** Constitutional Committee
With regard to the work of the Constitutional Committee, which completed five rounds without progress, Al-Maslat said, “It completed two years this month without anything moving and without starting to write the constitution, which can be drafted by the Syrians within a week.”
Al-Maslat wondered, “Is it worth procrastinating (the constitution) for two years,” noting that this procrastination “is from the regime that does not want to accomplish anything.”
And he added, “But the international body and the envoy, Pedersen, must move more seriously.”
Al-Maslat considered that the international community “has poured its efforts into humanitarian files without paying attention to the political solution that the Syrian people need.”
He said: “What we are trying and seeking to make the international community understand is that Russia has deceived them with side matters, but political concern is the basis and to stand by the people who have suffered and are suffering.”
Five rounds of the Constitutional Committee’s work in the Swiss city of Geneva failed to achieve any progress, due to the regime’s refusal to enter into the work of drafting the constitution.
The fifth round was held last January, and did not achieve a stated result.
** Coalition moves
On the coalition’s efforts to advance the political process, Al-Maslat said: “It has made large and intensive movements with several international bodies and many delegations visited the coalition and we visited several destinations.”
He pointed out that “a few days ago, there was a meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister (Mouloud Cavusoglu), in addition to meetings with officials from other countries.”
He added, “There is an upcoming visit in the coming days to New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings, and a meeting with (Antonio) Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and with officials from other countries.”
Al-Maslat added: “We bear the suffering of our people and important issues and files that mean a lot to our people at home. When we talk about Syria, we talk about all Syrians, their concerns and their suffering, regardless of the situations. “.
He continued, “Our suffering is great and there is no longer a place for compliments, and we must take steps forward in the political track. It is a strategic choice for us, but we see stagnation in countries that must act and assume their responsibilities, and we want to accomplish something, not to go back as we went.”
** Syrian interior
Regarding the meetings with the Syrian interior and its needs, Al-Maslat said, “The meetings were intense with the interior, and we listen to them.”
He added: “Although our headquarters are abroad, but we also have headquarters inside, we want to be partners in decision-making, and this prompted us in the past and in the current stage, to meet intensively with people, listen to them and work to alleviate suffering.”
And he added: “We do not hear complaints from the inside, but rather demands to move politically, but the problem is not with the coalition, but with the decline of international attitudes towards the political process.”
Al-Maslat continued: “This places a great burden and responsibility on the coalition, and we are pushing through meetings, meetings, travel and talks with officials towards moving the political process.”
With regard to the life needs of the interior, Al-Maslat said: “The coalition institutions are working to the fullest within their ability and capacity, but the interior does not need an interim government or institutions only, but also needs states’ positions and international support, especially in the health and educational fields.”
Regarding the Corona virus crisis that is sweeping the world and the interim government’s dealing with it, Al-Maslat said: “In this catastrophic situation, countries have retreated because of Corona, so how about small liberated areas that have no ingredients.”
He added, “However, the institutions of the interim government are working with all their capacity, and the Support Coordination Unit is working to provide vaccines.”
He added: “Education has a big problem through the operating costs borne by educational institutions, which necessitated setting some fees that parents cannot bear. We used to have free education and we hope to start cooperation to solve the problem so that our children and their families do not move away from entering school because of a financial obstacle.”
Al-Maslat stressed that the general situation “needs the support of countries,” noting that “sister Turkey has never shortened and the burden has become heavy, and it has supported all fields in education, health and security, but we are in an unenviable situation.”
** Security situation in Idlib
In response to a question about the security situation in Idlib, Al-Maslat said: “There is an agreement between Turkey and Russia, and for months we have seen violations by Moscow and the regime targeting civilians.”
He added: “There is communication and talks have taken place that we know about between the Turks and the Russians to control these matters, but Russia does not respect any pact.”
In May 2017, Turkey, Russia and Iran announced that they had reached an agreement to establish a “de-escalation zone” in Idlib, as part of the Astana meetings related to the Syrian issue.
Al-Maslat pointed out, “There is great activity and effort in providing security in Idlib, which is a sensitive issue and every day there are some violations, but there is readiness and control over it by the national army factions.”
On the impact of the recent visit of the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad to Russia, on the situation on the ground, Al-Maslat said: “What we are facing is because of Russia, Iran and the regime.”
He added: “We do not know the content of the visit, but perhaps something is on the horizon, because there are meetings between the United States and Russia in Geneva. We cannot expect anything to see some things.”
** Return of refugees
Al-Maslat touched on the situation of Syrian refugees, especially in Turkey, saying: “The words that we have heard from the Turkish brothers since the beginning of the revolution, and their honorable position with the Syrians, has not changed, and they have recently repeated it to us.”
He added, “Over the years, their position has not changed. Turkey’s position is good with the Syrians, but we also have a responsibility as Syrians, which is to respect the laws of the country in which we reside, in whatever country.”
Al-Maslat warned that “there are those who are playing on this matter (allegations of the deportation of Syrians) and this paper is for private matters, but at the official level there is no change in the Syrians,” noting that “the issue of voluntary return is all of us with him and all Syrians want to return, but in the event that there is safe environment”.
He added: “No one can go to his death or arrest him, these countries will not be an eternal stable for the Syrians, but rather a temporary existence, but for certain accounts there are some parties that have nothing to do with any official parties, whether with Turkey or others, playing on this chord.”
Al-Maslat concluded by saying: “There is no official decision, but the fact is that we do not violate the laws. There is a residency system that we respect without violations. Whoever adheres to these matters will not offend him and his presence in this region.”
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria recently declared in a report that the situation is “not appropriate” for the “safe and dignified” return of refugees, noting the escalation of violence in the north and south of the country.