x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Syrian transitional government 'weeks away' from being finalised

Abdulbaset Saida, chairman of the Syrian National Council, says new government must be ready to step in "as soon as Assad falls".

Head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and Syrian opposition chief Abdel Basit Sayda speaks during a news conference in Abu Dhabi early on Sunday. REUTERS/Ben Job
Head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and Syrian opposition chief Abdel Basit Sayda speaks during a news conference in Abu Dhabi early on Sunday. REUTERS/Ben Job

DUBAI // A transitional government solution for Syria is weeks away from being finalised, according to the chairman of the opposing Syrian National Council.

Abdulbaset Saida, who was in Abu Dhabi yesterday for a meeting with foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, told Sky News Arabia a transitional government proposal was discussed at the Arab Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Doha last week.

“The transitional government has been set as a priority at the last Arab meeting and we will be discussing with all the factions and parties involved in the struggle the criteria for it’s development,” he said.

Among the parties that need to be consulted are the Free Syrian Army and opposition political leaders currently in Syria, he added.

“The time frame set for this government to be formed is the next few weeks,” he said. “This government has to be set up and ready before the fall of the Assad regime.”

The Kofi Annan peace plan was a failure, Mr Saida, 55, said, referring to a plan sketched out by the former United Nations secretary general and put into play on March 27.

“After the failure of Annan’s plan, we will not accept any person from the regime to be in the government,” he said. “The opposition groups in Syria should represent this transitional government.

“We are not going to negotiate with the killers and we will not accept anything but justice against them. However, we are open to discussions with members of the regime who have not participated in the bloodshed,” he said.

Last week, the Syrian National Council (SNC) said it would accept an interim figure from the current regime, provided Bashar Al Assad stepped down as president.

Hours later it recanted the offer, saying only “a national consensus figure from the opposition” would be able to lead the country in a transition phase, and such a figure would “not be part of the regime”.

The council chairman once again called on Russia and China to support the Syrian people in his Sky News Arabia interview.

The SNC recognises Moscow as a major player, he said, but added they had not yet been approached by the Russian government for talks.

Mr Saida arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday to hold talks with Sheikh Abdullah about potential financial and technical support for the opposition from the UAE.

Future solutions should not include any offer of asylum for President Basheer Al Assad, Mr Saida told AFP, adding the president should be tried for “massacres”.

He also urged Arab “brothers and friends to support the Free Syrian Army” with weapons. “We want weapons that would stop tanks and jet fighters. That is what we want,” he said.

amustafa@thenational.ae