Last updated: 21 May, 2013

Damascus opponents demand guarantees Assad will quit

Syrian opposition representatives have demanded international guarantees that President Bashar al-Assad step down in any peace deal, former opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said on Tuesday, as Russia and the United States step up efforts to organise a peace conference.

The demand was one of eight points set out in a roadmap agreed by delegates to a two-day Syrian National Consultation meeting in Madrid, Khatib said on his Facebook page.

Delegates also stipulated that “involvement in any political process on Syria depends on the army’s withdrawal to its barracks, on the release of all detainees, and on humanitarian assistance being allowed in to all areas of the country without exception”.

It also said the National Coalition — which Khatib has abandoned — would be “the legitimate representative” of Syrian opposition forces in any political negotiations.

“Bashar al-Assad and his security regime are not a part of any transitional phase, and they have no role in Syria’s future,” the document said, adding that there need to be “international guarantees” for his departure.

It also said Syria would be led by a transitional government “until the foundations are laid for a new political system based on democracy, pluralism, justice, equality and the rule of law”.

According to Spanish daily El Mundo, some 86 dissidents “from various currents, as well as representatives of various political parties, religious minorities, women’s groups and Free Syrian Army fighters” took part in the meeting.

Former Omayyad mosque imam and prominent dissident Khatib resigned from the main opposition National Coalition in April, although the Spanish government said in a statement the group was represented at the meeting.

A critic of what he has described as the international community’s “inaction” over Syria and meddling by regional powers, Khatib opposed the naming in March of an interim rebel prime minister.

In February, Khatib offered to open talks with representatives of the Damascus regime, subject to conditions including the release of 160,000 detainees.

The Syrian regime rejected the conditions but Khatib’s critics in the opposition accused him of betrayal.

In an interview with El Mundo, Khatib said his goal was “to draft a document that all Syrians can agree on — not just the revolutionaries. Many people are waiting for something to unite them”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov announced the proposed peace conference after talks in Moscow on May 7.

The opposition National Coalition is to meet in Istanbul on Thursday to decide whether to take part.