Talks with Syrian regime based on Assad’s removal: opposition chief

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The opposition Syrian National Coalition said on Thursday that any talks on the country's political future must be about the departure of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

A day after SNC chief Moaz al-Khatib expressed openness to discussion with members of the regime, the political commission issued a statement reaffirming the group's charter that "any negotiation or dialogue must be about the departure of the regime and its pillars."

It added that it welcomed "any political solution or international effort aimed at achieving that objective."

The announcement released yesterday by the opposition chief said the reason he was ready to talk to regime officials stems from a belief the population will be bled dry while the West fails to act, analysts say.

Syrian National Council chief Moaz al-Khatib believes Western backers of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad have not only failed to meet calls for military support, but have also backtracked for fear of the rise of Islamists.

On Wednesday, Khatib said he was "ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime," conditional on the release of "160,000 detainees" and exiles' passports being renewed in embassies.

Khatib's group is recognized by dozens of states and organizations as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

But his overture may be rejected outright by Damascus, with Assad unlikely to accept his conditions for talks, experts say.

Other opposition members have already rejected the idea outright because it does not stipulate Assad's fall as a precondition.

"Recently, Khatib has shown he is extremely disappointed with the attitude of states who pretend to support the opposition," said Thomas Pierret, lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.

"Neither the opposition's Coalition, nor the (rebel) Free Syrian Army's joint command has received the support they were promised.

"Given the circumstances, Khatib feels the only way to alleviate the Syrian people's suffering is to negotiate," he said.

"At the same time, as a man of principle, he made an offer subject to conditions that are logical but impossible for the regime to accept, so his proposal is doomed to fail."

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said Khatib "sees Syria is being destroyed and that the military solution alone will not help the people live in freedom.

"Khatib can also see the international community has made many promises and that none have come into fruition. So he is looking for a way to reach a consensus among the people in order to be able to move forward."

The bulk of the army still supports Assad, said Abdel Rahman.

"It is very easy to sit in a hotel and criticise Khatib when people are being killed and starved," he said of Khatib's critics.

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