SYRIA: Activists snub regime's invitation to 'national dialogue'
The Syrian Local Coordination Committee, the primary mouthpiece of anti-regime protestors now posing the largest threat to the four-decade rule of the Assad family, released a statement Tuesday rejecting the regime’s invitation to a July 10 meeting aimed at compromise.
President Bashar Assad and the recently formed National Dialogue Commission chaired by Vice President Farouk Sharaa called for the consultation meeting last week.
According to the Syrian state-owned news agency SANA, the purpose of the meeting would be to "establish bases and mechanisms of dialogue in preparation for holding a National Dialogue Conference."
Sharaa's group extended invitations to all Syrian intellectual and political figures, SANA reported.
The group representing the protesters responded to the invitation by questioning the meeting’s purpose, dismissing the regime’s call for dialogue as unlikely to arrive at actual solutions.
The Syrian Local Coordination Committee accused the regime of using a “national dialogue” as an excuse to try to win more time and “circumvent the legitimate demands of the people.”
The dialogue was limited to a mere “discussion of the necessary changes to the state’s constitution and the blueprints of new legislations” rather than fundamental change, the activists' statement said.
Though a generation gap in Syria’s diverse opposition movement lingers, shunning the regime’s proposal for national dialogue may be one of the few stances adopted by both the traditional Syrian opposition and the younger protesters.
The committee's statement cited the fundamental inability of the regime to dissociate itself from the ruling structure as the rudimentary cause for why negotiation with the state was unfeasible.
“The state can’t separate itself from itself,” said committee member Omar Ibdy.
The statement questioned the actual motives of the regime in calling for dialogue, especially as “its forces continue to shell many cities, as well as arbitrarily kill and detain many protestors, torturing them to death in some cases.”
“This means that the regime’s aim in calling for dialogue is just to influence main international powers, rather than to really respond to the demands of the Syrian people,” it said.
In addition, the statement highlighted basic conditions the regime had not satisfied in order to promote an environment conducive to dialogue, such as stopping the use of violence against protesters and halting the detention of peaceful demonstrators.
Releasing political prisoners, ending the siege on numerous cities, stemming the stream of pro-regime propaganda and allowing foreign media to access the country to cover the current events, were also other demands the state had not yet met, making it an unsuitable partner for negotiation, the statement said.
-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut
Photo: Banner held by a protestor in the Damascus neighborhood of Hajar Aswad. Credit: Reuters