Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – More than 200 members of various Syrian opposition groups, following a three-day conference in Istanbul, issued a general declaration agreeing to form a “government in exile” in preparation for the transitional phase in Syria.
Syrian political and military opposition figures, from inside the country and abroad, responded to an invitation from the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies [SCPSS] to participate in a conference to discuss how to manage the post-Assad transitional stage in the country. This three-day conference, which began on Monday and ended with the agreement to form a transitional government in exile, was entitled “Managing the Transition in Syria: Challenges and a Vision for the Future”.
The participants issued a statement following the three-day conference announcing that “the conference agreed on the need to put aside our ideological differences to agree on creating a government in exile.”
The statement added “it would be in the form of a transitional government to grab more political support from the international and Arab community, in order to support the revolution.”
The declaration was signed by the SNC, FSA, Kurdish National Council, Damascus Declaration, Muslim Brotherhood and Syrian Revolution General Commission, amongst others.
The declaration was read by SCPSS Executive Officer Dr. Radwan Ziadeh. He said “all the attendees, who represent all the political parties of Syria, agreed that a general assembly should be held and from this, the general assembly-in-exile will be elected. Such a general assembly should be held inside Syria in liberated areas, if possible. If not, a preparation committee can look for other options, such as other countries.”
For his part, SCPSS President Dr. Osama Kadi, speaking during the opening ceremony of this conference, asserted that it would not be easy to implement the transition in Syria without working out a clear vision for the future of Syria, placing the country on the path to political change.
The conference attendants focused on the importance of planning for the transitional stage, particularly as major parts of the country have been liberated from the grip of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, most importantly the border crossings, which have high strategic importance, particularly in terms of national sovereignty. The conference attendants agreed that this is something that necessitates the establishment of a central authority that is able to manage the transitional stage on the basis of the two agreements reached by the Syrian opposition during the July Cairo Conference. The July Cairo Conference resulted in two major agreements, namely a national charter, as well as an agreement on the features of a post-Assad transition stage.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, SNC-member Luay Safi stressed that “this conference is the culmination of previous efforts to develop a detailed plan for the transitional stage.” He added “the conference’s importance lies in the efforts to reach an understanding among the revolutionary and political forces regarding the broad outlines for this plan, which was developed in Istanbul four months ago and was submitted to the Friends of Syria conference.”
He asserted that “we are focusing on four central points; firstly, how to politically run the transitional stage; secondly, how to achieve transitional justice; thirdly, how to achieve security; finally, how to run the national economy during this stage.”
The SNC member also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “efforts are being made, during this conference, to develop this 16-page plan in a way that satisfies all attendants.”
He added “we will attempt to examine the details of each point and to seek to achieve a political and military consensus on everything.”
For his part, FSA Joint Command spokesman, Fahd al-Masri, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the conference’s main objective is to “seek to expand the consensus on the operational mechanisms for the transitional and democratic stages.”
He also revealed that “there will also be preparation for a future conference, which will be attended by all components of the Syrian opposition, which will be transformed into a revolutionary parliament.”
He added that this revolutionary parliament “will establish a Higher Council to Protect the Revolution…as previously presented in plans put forward by the FSA Joint Command.”
The FSA spokesman stressed that “one of the main tasks of this Higher Council will be to restructure the regime’s military and security establishments, with the FSA absorbing all those who wish to carry weapons.”
Al-Masri also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it would be a grave mistake to wait for the collapse of the regime and then to build these establishments” adding “these establishments should be ready and prepared from the first moment following the collapse of the regime.”
He said “as for the transitional government, it will come to light following the establishment of the Higher Council to Protect the Revolution.”
According to the organizers, the “Managing the Transition in Syria: Challenges and a Vision for the Future” conference was attended by more than 150 Syrian opposition political leaders and activists who belong to various political trends. SCPSS revealed that representatives of the SNC, Kurdish National Council, Assyrian Organization, Damascus Declaration, Muslim Brotherhood, Syrian Revolution General Commission, Local Coordination Committees, Levant Scholars Commission, and others attended the opposition conference. A number of senior political figures who defected from the al-Assad regime, including former Prime Minister Riad Hijab and various former Syrian ambassadors, also participated in the conference in addition to former Syrian diplomats and FSA and opposition brigade commanders.