The head of the Syrian opposition coalition’s interim government, Ahmad Tohmeh, has aired his thoughts on the U.S.-Russian deal to destroy the Syrian regime’s chemical stockpile within a year.
In an interview with Al Arabiya, Tohmeh said the deal was reached between the two parties in a manner that prevented the Syrian people from influencing the decision.
Tohmeh also said that the agreement helped the Americans achieve two major aims; disarming the Syrian regime of its chemical weapons in order to serve Israel’s interests and hampering Iran’s nuclear program.
He also said that this is why many national coalition and opposition members withdrew their support of the American-Russian deal sealed in Geneva, adding, however, that he personally studied the agreement thoroughly, particularly its English version, and believes that it also has positive points that serve the opposition.
On how to deal with extremist groups currently present in Syria, Tohmeh said the problem with these groups is that they want to impose their extremist intellect by force, adding that deep-rooted problems led to the current situation.
“The interim’s government success in improving people’s livelihoods [will serve the aim of decreasing] popular support of these groups,” he added.
Tohmeh noted that the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Levant is the most extremist group, followed by the al-Nusra Front. He added, however, that the opposition cannot deal with such parties for political and intellectual reasons but it may reconsider this stance if extremist concepts are given up and the concept of dialogue is embraced.
Tohmeh also commented on reports that a national army will be formed and said this army will be formed of Free Syrian Army battalions and factions, adding that it’s an issue of organizing the FSA according to a proper hierarchy.
Tohmeh added that this army will be tasked with protecting the interim government.
He also said that he will present the cabinet formation to the national coalition by Oct. 25, 2013 - the scheduled deadline. He added that the formation will not be set as per quotas but at the same time no one will be eliminated.
Tohmeh acknowledged that the interim government must be present inside Syrian territory but said that its temporary location will be Gaziantep along the Turkish-Syrian border.
“We won’t sit in five star hotels. We want to be close to [Syrian] citizens,” he stated.