January 22, 2014
As the Geneva II peace talks get underway Wednesday in the Swiss town of Montreux, the Syrian government has explicitly disavowed Geneva’s stated goal of forming a transitional government by mutual consent, insisting instead that the talks should focus instead on “fighting terrorism.”
Powerful forces within the armed opposition have been equally blunt in their rejection of the talks, with Zahran Aloush, the Islamic Front’s military chief, suggesting that conference participants from both the regime and the opposition could be placed on a “wanted list” for targeting.
On Monday, three major coalitions within the armed opposition—the Islamic Front, Jaish al-Mujahideen, and the Islamic Union for Soldiers of the Levant— released a detailed statement condemning the Geneva process, and the Syrian National Coalition for attending it, insisting that “the Syrian people will not be satisfied by any one group attending Geneva II on their behalf, bringing with them a series of concessions and retreats rather than defending our legitimate human rights and demands.”
The statement goes on to declare that the signatories will not accept a political solution until a list of conditions have been met, including the removal of Bashar al-Assad and all “criminal symbols” of his regime and the departure of “sectarian militias…foreign to Syrian society.”
A full translation by Syria Direct follows below.
A statement from the forces on the ground regarding the Geneva II conference
It is clear that the Syrian revolution has arrived at a dangerous juncture, requiring that we scrupulously follow every step of its labors and outputs. Our revolution began with demands of liberation and dignity for the Syrian people, not with the desire to fight; we were forced to take up arms to defend the protesters who were subjected to brutal oppression. Carrying weapons is not the revolution’s goal—its goal is to recover the human and religious rights of which our people have been deprived.
It is inconceivable that a political solution will succeed. As we see it, the regime, through savage and criminal practices, has undermined any chances that a solution like Geneva could succeed. It heads toward Geneva 2 with barrel bombs and malicious blockades, with policies of systematic starvation and brutally torturing prisoners to death, murdering children, raping activists and committing genocide with chemical weapons. It has left no room for dialogue, except for those who represent only themselves.
It has become common knowledge that long-delayed and procrastinated political solutions only serve to dilute the issue at hand, as has been the case with the series of conferences seeking a political solution to the Palestinian issue. The Palestinians’ concessions must not be repeated in the Syrian case.
The true military and political forces in Syria have not authorized any Syrian party to neglect the rights of the Syrian people or compromise any of their demands. The Syrian people will not be satisfied by any one group attending Geneva II on their behalf, bringing with them a series of concessions and retreats rather than defending our legitimate human rights and demands.
To be sure, we thank Turkey and Qatar and the other states that have helped our revolution and eased our people’s suffering, and we appreciate their eagerness for us to participate in finding a political solution, but we will continue in our revolution and not accept any political solution before achieving the following conditions:
- The regime must immediately release prisoners; lift the blockades of besieged areas; end the brutal shelling throughout Syria; allow aid to reach all areas inside of Syria; and refrain from blocking displaced persons seeking to return to their homes.
- The head of state must step aside, allowing with all of his criminal symbols, and the security apparatus must be dissolved and held accountable.
- All sectarian militias, which are foreign to Syrian society and which have aided the regime in oppressing our people, must leave Syria.
- No power may interfere in the formation of the future Syrian state or impose orders that contradict our people’s Islamic identity, or that deprives any segment of Syrian society of its rights.
For all these conditions, we call on all honorable actors within the Syrian opposition to gather in support of our people and their legitimate demands, and seek to achieve their dignity and their human and religious rights.