Syrian opposition pressurises Assad for peace talks
Damascus: Stepping up pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib has reiterated his peace talks offer, urging the regime to respond.
Syrian National Coalition chief Al-Khatib had last week proposed to negotiate with the Assad given the regime freed 160, 000 prisoners.
The peace offer had startled many in the opposition who were not ready to start any negotiations until Assad stepped down first.
But, the newly elected chief of opposition repeated the dialogue offer to stop further bloodshed and “facilitate a peaceful departure" of Assad.
It is likely to be rejected by Syrian officials who insist Assad will stay in power at least until his term ends in mid-2014. And even if accepted, he will likely not have broad enough backing among the opposition to make any deal meaningful.
More than 60,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began almost two years ago. The revolt, which began with largely peaceful protests, has turned into civil war now locked in a deadly stalemate with sectarian overtones.
Al-Khatib's overture reflects the realization among some opposition leaders that a victory is unlikely to be achieved on the battlefield as well as disillusionment with an international community that has largely failed to stem the bloodshed and has balked at military intervention to help topple Assad.
The initiative came nearly four weeks after Assad outlined his own vision for ending the conflict with a plan that offers elections and a new constitution but ultimately keeps him in power.
Al-Khatib said last week he is willing to hold talks with the regime in Egypt, Tunisia or Turkey if that would help end the bloodshed. He also made his offer conditional on the regime's release of tens of thousands of detainees and renewal of passports of activists who live abroad.
"Look in the eyes of your children before you sleep maybe will get back some of your humanity and will find a solution together," al-Khatib said in remarks directed at Assad.
The Syrian opposition movement has been plagued from the start of the uprising by a lack of unity and cohesion that has hampered not only success on the battlefield but also foreign assistance.
Opposition figures were divided over al-Khatib's proposal.
"There is difference between negotiating with the regime and negotiating for the regime's departure," said Muhieddine Lathkani, a London-based member of the Syrian National Council opposition group who supports the dialogue offer.
Syria is now in 23rd month of a civil war that has killed over 60, 000 people as per an UN estimate.
With Agency Inputs