By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian and international opposition forces refused a peace plan proposed by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad during a speech he made last Sunday.
In his speech, Assad called for Western countries to desist from finding and arming rebels, and said that he would be willing to work with countries “who have not betrayed Syria.” Originally billed as the unveiling of a new peace plan, Assad did not offer to make any compromises in establishing peace with his opposition, and also appeared to take a tougher stance on many of his positions. In his speech, Assad called on Syrians to fight “a war to defend the nation,” and made it unlikely for any prospect of negotiations. This was Assad’s first address to the nation since June.
“We do not reject political dialogue… but with whom should we hold a dialogue? With extremists who don’t believe in any language but killing and terrorism?,” asked Assad.
Assad’s foreign opposition was dismissive of his speech.
The U.S. State Department denounced Assad’s speech, calling it “detached from reality,” while Britain said the speech was “empty.” The European Union maintained its position on Assad, calling for him “to step aside and allow for a political transition.”
State Department Spokeswoman Victorian Nuland said of the speech that it was “yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition.”
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi says that he endorses any decision which helps the Syrian people in putting Assad on trial in front of the International Criminal Court.
Assad’s opposition within Syria found the speech to prove that Assad is not willing to step down.
Louay Safi, member of the Syrian National Coalition Opposition Block, said that Assad’s speech was nothing more than “empty rhetoric.” George Sabra, Vice President of the opposition National Coalition said that the speech itself did “not even deserve to be called an initiative… We should see it rather as a declaration that he will continue his war against the Syrian people.” The National Coalition also noted that Assad refuses to hold a dialogue with rebels, making negotiations impossible. The opposition claims that they will negotiate only if Assad offers to resign from the presidency.
Opposition groups are unwilling to compromise with Assad unless he offers to step-down. Nevertheless, that is a move that Assad is not likely to make any time soon.
For further information, please see:
Al Arabiya — Syrian Opposition, West Reject Assad ‘Peace Plan’ — 7 January 2013
Al Jazeera — Syrian Opposition Rejects Assad’s Peace Plan — 7 January 2013
BBC News — Syria Crisis: US Decries Assad ‘Western Puppets’ Speech — 7 January 2013
Reuters — Assad Peace Plan Greeted with Scorn by Foes — 7 January 2013