x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Syrian double-speak

The Syrian government scheduled a national dialogue for next week, a call that will be met with scepticism from opposition groups. But President Bashar al Assad has a chance to prove the sceptics wrong.

Empty promises will not end Syria's crisis. Sadly, Syrian president Bashar al Assad seems unable to offer anything else.

On Friday, Mr al Assad's regime announced government troops will slowly be pulled out of Deraa and Baniyas, and a "comprehensive national dialogue" on the uprising will be scheduled next week.

Anti-government groups will no doubt be sceptical of this latest overture, and they are right to be. A day after pledges to pull out the tanks, three protesters were killed in Talkalakh near Homs. When Mr al Assad ended Syria's 48-year emergency rule in April, expectations were high that reforms had finally arrived. Since then, blood on the streets has continued to flow. As many as 850 have died since mid-March.

Promises will again prove meaningless if the current climate of distrust is not addressed head on. Opposition leaders have rejected talks before; they have little incentive to listen this time. Continuously labelling demonstrators "armed terrorist gangs" is not the way forward.

After so many days of obfuscation and double-speak, it's difficult to imagine Mr al Assad making good on calls for dialogue. He may not even have the support within his own regime to pull it off. But for the sake of those risking everything for a chance to sit at the table, we hope the Syrian president is finally about to deliver on his promises.