Tunis – On March 30, figures from all over the Arab world and Europe took part in a conference in Tunis entitled “A Progressive Agenda for a New Arab World” to express their solidarity with the Arab revolutions and specifically the Syrian people, who have been subjected to the Baath regime’s year-long crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Participants of the conference – organized and hosted by the European Socialists Party in collaboration with the Global Progressive Forum – issued a declaration after discussing the current situations of Arab countries.
NOW Lebanon talked to Georges Sabra, who was the representative of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) at the conference.
What happened during the conference? Would you consider it a success?
Sabra: For us the conference was one step in the right direction. It was important for the opposition to present a unified document certified by most of its parties with the purpose of sending out a message to two teams: our people at home, asking them not to worry; and those in the outside world. The Syrians know what sort of system they want to build, and they are not working on bringing down the regime so that chaos and corruption end up wrecking the country. They are ready to build a democratic substitute by unifying their voices, and we have been successful in gathering the largest spectrum of the opposition.
I think that it was a success because all of the opposition’s parties came to one conclusion: We managed to unite the opposition’s vision, especially about the future of Syria.
What’s your opinion on the withdrawal of the Kurds from the conference?
Sabra: It is unfortunate that they did that. We have been in constant dialogue with the Kurdish National Council for three months with the purpose of combining the Kurdish National Council with the Syrian National Council.
We asked our brothers the Kurds to wait until the formation of the Constituent Assembly, and then we could discuss the constitution’s status and agree on certain formulas. But they insisted on their views and demands, so the Syrian National Council apologized for not responding to any of the demands, which led to their withdrawal from the conference.
What about the failure of UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan’s plan? What is next in your opinion? Another practical plan along with Annan’s perhaps?
Sabra: Annan’s plan is based on the Arab League’s initiative, and the Syrian regime rejected and buried the Arab initiative. That’s why we expected that those who rejected the first initiative would reject the second one, even if they proclaimed their nominal acceptance of that initiative.
The initiative starts when the killing of the people ends, when the media can enter Syria.
We wish for this plan to be directed in a positive manner, and that the regime would be honest in the application of it. But we don’t have faith that the regime would do that.
I think that Annan’s initiative needs a big miracle to be applied, and I don’t think that we are in the age of miracles today, sadly.
What is required of the international community? Military intervention? Pressure on both China and Russia?
Sabra: No doubt that there are duties for the international community. No populous should be left alone struggling and fighting for freedom against daily massacres. That’s a shame for humankind.
So far, the international community did not manage to issue through the Security Council a decision condemning the massacres by the Syrian regime. And this is sad. The international community must un-tie the Russian knot and open the Security Council up for international resolutions, because that’s a right, and Syria is a founding member the United Nations.
Why don’t they bring United Nations forces into Syria? As for the international powers, they shouldn’t keep their political options limited because of [China and Russia’s] veto power at the UN. The Gulf States can voice a very firm opinion.
We wish for international intervention, but sadly nothing looks promising on the horizon. If they cannot intervene, the least they can do is arm the people.