October 3, 2013
As UN chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Damascus to carry out Resolution 2118’s mandate to identify and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, the leaders of the exiled Syrian National Coalition gathered this week in Istanbul for an internal election.
Ahmad Touma, 48, is a former dentist from Deir e-Zor who was imprisoned three times by the Syrian regime for his activism and now serves as the president of the SNC’s transitional government.
The Syrian National Coalition faces a variety of challenges these days, from gaining legitimacy inside Syria as rebel allegiances shift on the ground to arriving at a consensus whether to attend the Geneva II conference, where international powers hope to negotiate a settlement to the Syrian war.
Syria Direct’s Nuha Shabaan asks Touma, who says the Coalition will participate in the Geneva conference if it “meets the demands of the Syrian people,” exactly what that means.
Q: Are you planning to participate in Geneva II?
A: This is a premature discussion. We have not stated that we will attend.
Q: What do you mean it’s too early to answer? Are you going to go to the conference? I think you will! I would like your opinion as president of the interim government. What are the conditions for your participation in Geneva II?
A: We are considering the interests of the Syrian people. Fundamentally we are focusing on serving the people. We will relay the details of Geneva II to them and if the majority of the people agree to these details then we will attend the conference. But if the details are vague, do not meet the demands of the Syrian people, and do not live up to certain requirements after all the sacrifices the Syrian people have made – mainly the departure of the regime – then we will certainly not attend.
Q: Do you support a political solution? Will you meet the aspirations of the Syrian people?
A: Of course, we have been for a political solution from the beginning. However we want a political solution that guarantees the dignity of the Syrian people and meets their goals of living in freedom.
Q: How will you know that the people inside Syria agree on your attendance [at Geneva]? Is there a specific mechanism for that?
We can settle that, yes there are communications [inside and outside of Syria]. There are news organizations; there are numerous public relations organizations within the brigades, battalions, local congresses, and there are representatives of communities. [Those groups and individuals] are capable of gauging the opinions of the people. In my view it is not a difficult to determine the opinions of the people, and what they want.
Q: Will the elected ministers be included in your government? Who will finalize the formation of this government?
We are still currently forming the government. We will probably announce the results on the 18th of October.
Q: Are there specific names you could disclose?
Yes, there is one person I can reveal. I will tell you one name that is known: his name is Ahmed Touma.
Q: Thank you Professor Ahmed Touma, I hope that your government succeeds in its mission.