Opposition forces within Syria, led by the National Coordination Committee, are seeking “diplomatic protection” from Damascus’ allies, especially Moscow and Tehran, to hold their expanded meeting on Saturday.
The conference is aimed at forming the “National Democratic Front” and will express its commitment to the “political transition” and implementation of the Geneva declaration and United Nations Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2254.
The committee is continuing its negotiations with the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) to complete the agreement on principles between them. The two parties had previously resolved disputes related to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Kurdish autonomous administration in the area east of the Euphrates River.
General Coordinator of the Coordination Committee, Hassan Abdulazim told Asharq Al-Awsat that invitations have been sent out to governments that enjoy diplomatic representation in Damascus, including Russia, Iran, China and Egypt, to attend the opening of the conference on Saturday.
Secretary-General of the Arab Democratic Socialist Union Party, Ahmed al-Asrawi said there were no guarantees that the conference will be held and that diplomatic presence at the meeting does not “protect it.” The party is a member of the National Coordination Committee.
A member of the party revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that a former member of the Coordination Committee, Abdulaziz al-Kheir had “disappeared” shorty after arriving in Damascus from an official visit to China.
Blocs and conferences
The National Coordination Committee was formed in June 2011. It is comprised of 11 parties and opposition forces inside Syria and beyond. It is aimed at introducing national democratic change in Syria and rejecting foreign meddling in the country. It also demands political transition in line with the 2012 Geneva declaration and resolutions 2118 and 2254.
In September 2012, the committee held a “national salvation conference” in Damascus. The event was attended by representatives and ambassadors of Russia, Iran and Egypt. It demanded “radical democratic change” in the country.
At some point, a rift emerged between the Arab Democratic Socialist Union Party and Coordination Committee. The party would then form alliances with the SDF, which is backed by the United States and had spearheaded battles against the ISIS terrorist group.
In late 2015, Riyadh hosted an expanded meeting for the opposition. It led to the formation of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC). It is formed of 36 members: eight members from the coalition, four from the Moscow platform, four from the Cairo platform, five from the Coordination Committee, seven from military factions, eight independent figures and a Kurdish member of the coalition.
Abdulazim told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that Saturday’s conference will witness the participation of 11 members of the HNC and ten other bodies with the aim of achieving a “wider alliance of national forces that are committed to the political solution”. The solution would be based on the Geneva declaration and resolutions 2118 and 2254.
Asrawi said the idea of the conference was proposed some two years ago. It is “not a substitute” to the opposition or coalition, he told Asharq Al-Awsat. The coalition has come under criticism for growing “too close” to Turkey.
Abdulazim said the coalition, which is present outside Syria, has a reach within the country, while “we are on the inside and have a reach outside the country. We therefore, complement each other.”
Abdulazim and Asrawi said the conference is not related to the upcoming presidential elections, which are set for the summer.
The elections have been a point of contention between Moscow and Tehran, which want to hold them according to the 2012 constitution, and between Washington and western countries, which refuse to recognize elections that are not held according to resolution 2254,
Abdulazim has called for a boycott of the elections, which he described as a farce. He underscored the opposition’s boycott and urging the people to reject them as well. He explained that the polls undermine attempts to reach a negotiated political solution in line with the UN resolutions and the Geneva declaration.
Asrawi, meanwhile, remarked that opposition forces inside Syria have not taken part in elections since 1973.