Hijab to "Al-Hayat" : Macron confirmed his support for the opposition and wants a democratic transition in SyriaDate Posted: 19 July 2017
The General Coordinator of the HNC, Dr. Riad Hijab, said in an interview with Al-Hayat, in response to a question about the change of France's position on the Syrian crisis, he explained in a meeting with President Emmanuel Macaron that the survival of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his post strengthens chaos, enhances the role of terrorist organizations and brings more militias Sectarianism. He stressed the need to bring Assad and all those who have been implicated in committing violations against the Syrians to justice.
Hijab quoted the French president as confirming his country's continued support for the Syrian opposition and saying that the issue of reopening the French embassy in Damascus is out of the question. Hijab said that the Geneva talks "are incapable of achieving any significant progress, with continued Russian and Iranian support for the regime" and the weakness of the positions of the group Friends of Syria". Below is the full interview:
What is your impression of French President Emmanuel Macron's statement on the establishment of a contact group of the five permanent members of the Security Council, a number of countries in the region and representatives of the regime and that he will negotiate with them within this group? What is your view of France changing its theory after it proved that its diplomacy has not been successful in the past seven years since the closure of its embassy in Damascus?
These proposals come as part of a comprehensive review by the new French government regarding France's policy towards Syria. President Macaron is pushing France to join the field effort to combat terrorism. He also wants to reach a road map with the Russians to achieve a democratic transition in Syria, while maintaining State institutions.
The matter for us in the HNC goes beyond the composition of impressions. As soon as these statements were made, we made contacts at the highest level. I met with Mr. Macaron and then spoke to him by phone. I assured him in both cases that in case Bashar al-Assad remains in power, this will only enhance the role of terrorist organizations, bringing in more sectarian militias, fomenting discrimination, hatred and sectarian tension, in particular that his regime has lost legitimacy after being proven to be involved in the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
I also explained to Mr. Macron that the most successful way to close this file is to bring Assad and all those who have been proven to be involved in committing violations against the Syrians for trial and to ensure that there would be no impunity; I also warned that Iran should not be allowed to use this as a means to achieve its ambitions for regional expansion.
In this context, we have noticed some discrepancies in the official statements. In our request to clarify, Mr. Macron pointed out that his statements regarding Bashar al-Assad had been taken out of context. He also stressed that the issue of reopening the French embassy in Damascus was out of the question.
Our efforts are continuing to clarify the dangers posed by the survival of Bashar al-Assad in power, especially with regard to his support of terrorist groups and the weakening of state institutions through dependence on sectarian militias and external decision, it is regrettable, however, that the international community has shown unusual laxity towards the crimes committed by Bashar Assad and his regime. Many Western countries seem willing to make basic concessions to Moscow with a view to seeking a political solution.
President Macron has already contacted you. What about this contact? Is there any chance that France might give up supporting the Syrian opposition?
exactly the contrary. I met with Mr. Macron after he assumed the presidency, and the contact between us has continued ever since. He assured me of his desire to continue communication and coordination and renewed Paris's commitment to support the opposition in its quest to achieve the just demands of the Syrian people. We have a close relationship with France and Mr. Macron's contacts with us underscore his Government's keenness to maintain and strengthen this strong relationship.
The US President Trump said that the Russian-American relationship allowed the cease-fire five days, do you really see this?
It is difficult to measure the relationship between America and Russia by agreement limited to areas of southwestern Syria. Former US Secretary of State John Kerry has worked hard to reach an agreement with Russia on the Syrian crisis in recent years, without reaching a conclusion.
US diplomacy is still unable to reach an agreement with the Russians on this thorny and complex issue. Negotiations between Washington and Moscow have not stopped over the past seven months from the Trump administration without any actual agreement on the ground.
There are fragile understandings in the halls of undeclared diplomacy between Washington and Moscow, but the situation on the ground is moving in a different direction, as it is heading towards further escalation under the unprecedented Iranian mobilization, along with the introduction of Tehran and its allies new forces and weapons of high quality not used before, and the willingness of various parties to the stage Of the conflict following the expected fall of «Daesh» East Euphrates.
Washington's attempts to reach a cooperative relationship with Moscow are facing major obstacles in the American arena, on the one hand, and field difficulties on the other, and I think it is too early for Trump to talk about a real achievement in cooperation with the Russians in the Syrian file.
Do you see any progress in the Geneva talks? Is there any disappointment from all the key countries that are approaching Putin? Is it true that you came close to direct negotiations with the regime ?
The Geneva talks are still far from achieving any significant progress. UN mediation has been stalled by the regime's refusal to cooperate with it, its continued violation of international law, its refusal to implement UN resolutions on Syria, and its continued efforts to thwart UN envoy efforts.
With the continued Russian and Iranian support for the regime and the weak positions of the "Friends of Syria" group, Mr. de Mistura is betting on understandings between the powers to find a formula that can be imposed on the ground. However, this assumption has not proved very successful during the past seven sessions.
In our diplomatic efforts, we are trying to remind the friendly countries that all the attempts that have been made to approach Moscow have not succeeded in resolving the outstanding issues so far. There is no hope of reaching an agreement in light of the growing military escalation of Iran and its militias.
The Syrian people are fed up with the repetition of the Geneva meetings and their coinciding with aerial bombardments and military escalation. I believe that the UN mediation is in need of new data commensurate with the depth of regional and international transformations, and focus on alleviating the suffering of the Syrians.
As for the direct negotiations with the regime, we have made many calls for it, recognizing that the regime is draining international diplomacy by wasting time and sabotaging the talks. We do not share with some international officials the optimism that a breakthrough in the behavior of the barbaric regime can be achieved, especially in the light of the presence of sectarian militias and the lack of international seriousness in stopping the violations committed against the Syrian people.
How do you view the administration of Raqqa after the output of «da'ash»? Do you think that their delivery will be to the regime if the forces remain inclined to Russia's position?
Al-Raqqa`s equation differs from other areas of conflict in Syria, as a result of ethnic interference and regional interactions, and the intersection with the Persian expansion project.
The US administration mixes its policy of deterrence and undeclared diplomacy, and is not prepared to wage a full-fledged battle at the moment, while Iran and its affiliates are trying to take control of the largest possible area in the face of American hesitation and ethnic tensions in the region.
In contrast to the ambitions of the Persian expansion, Ankara is moving in accordance with different understandings with Moscow, while some Kurdish separatist forces are based on American support for a foothold in the east of the Euphrates.
I do not think that things will settle in the foreseeable future of any of the conflicting groups, especially that the regime has failed to achieve any military progress or maintain the areas received by its allies, and does not appear that any of the parties is currently able to resolve matters to his advantage, especially that Most of the actors ignore the demographic specificity of the governorates of Raqqa and Deir al-Zour.