In response to comments from the leader of Syria's umbrella opposition group that it would accept negotiations with Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa, the main component of that group, the Syrian National Council, on Tuesday rejected the possibility of holding any talks with the regime.
On Monday, opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib told al-Arabiya after his meeting with Iranian, Russian and US officials in Munich that he had asked Iran to deliver his negotiations offer to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. Al-Khatib added that any talks must be based on the principle of the Syrian regime's departure.
“I ask the regime to send Farouq al-Sharaa—if it accepts the idea—and we can sit with him,” he said.
Al-Khatib has previously said it would engage in dialogue with representatives of the Syrian government, and al-Sharaa has repeatedly called for talks with the opposition, something that prompted the Arab League and the UN to see him as a possible successor to Assad.
However, some observers of the crisis said that the invitation by al-Khatib, leader of the Syrian National Coalition umbrella opposition group, produced a shock within the Syrian regime. The opposition already knows the Syrian regime, through an Assad speech, in January called for dialogue with the opposition, and so it made this call for propaganda only. Therefore, as the Syrian regime disregards this latest call, it proves the regime's lack of seriousness in dealing with the opposition. This will embarrass allies of the Syrian regime among the international community, which had lost confidence in Assad and his regime.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that "if the Syrian regime is interested in peace, it should sit down and talk now with the ... Coalition, and we would strongly support al-Khatib in that call." But, she stressed that the US position remained unchanged on bringing to account those on both sides who have committed atrocities.
In another context, in a televised interview with Syrian state TV on Monday, Syrian defense minister Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij claimed the Syrian army had proved it would not be defeated in its confrontation with terrorist gangs that are trying to overthrow Assad and his regime. At the same time, he declined to say whether Syria would respond to the recent Israeli airstrike within its borders.
"This heroic Syrian Arab army proved to the world that it is a strong army, a trained army, an army that cannot be broken," al-Freij said.
Al-Freij portrayed Israel's attack as a response to the failure of the terrorist gangs, which he described as "tools" of Israel aiming to destroy the Jamraya complex.
It would have been better if the interview with Syrian defense minister was done by Western TV, so that the title of the interview would be something like "Syrian regime will not and will never think of responding to Israel." This is what I understood from the interview with the minister. I think I have wasted my time in listening to him, as I discovered that the minister is same as Bashar, living in a place far from Syria and the incidents occurring on the ground—or perhaps they live on another planet!
The regime is only concerned with eliminating the opposition, whether politically or military. This is practically proved by the fact the regime killed more than 5,000 citizens in January. And still the regime continues to commit massacres that do not attract the attention of the international community anymore.
As for Mr. al-Khatib's surprise initiative, while it is opposed by many, its goal is clear: to embarrass the Syrian regime, which will certainly ignore this call. Thus, al-Khatib will direct some questions to all countries that recognized him and Syria's opposition National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people: What's next? We have provided a peaceful solution and did not get an answer—does the international community have a magical way, like David Copperfield, to get Syria out of this crisis?
Syrians hope the new US secretary of state, John Kerry, will help them out of the crisis, especially as he supports the idea of arming the opposition. They also hope that all Arab countries, specifically Egypt and Libya, will support them with weapons.