The Syrian Coalition called upon friendly countries to support the establishment of a unified national army to be made of the revolutionary armed groups forming an integral part of the international coalition against terror.
The Coalition on Friday held a press conference at the headquarters of the Secretariat in Istanbul, Turkey, to define its position on the latest political and field developments in Syria.
Head of the Coalition’s media department Ahmed Ramadan said: “The grave and unfortunate developments that have recently taken place in Idlib province did not come as a surprise given the conspicuous lack of sufficient support for the Free Syrian Army groups and the failure to empower the Syrian people through their legitimate political institutions to establish a unified national army.”
Urging the opposition’s armed groups to unify, Ramadan said: “The latest developments in Idlib province have put the opposition armed groups in front of a national responsibility to unify into a single national army whose primary task is to defend the liberated areas from the attacks of the Assad regime forces and their allies and to liberate the areas under the control of terrorist groups.”
The Coalition welcomed the de-escalation zones agreements reached recently in eastern Ghouta and the southern front. It stressed the need for monitoring mechanisms to ensure full implementation of these agreements.
“These agreements must lead to a halt to the bombardment and a full ceasefire on the entire Syrian territory,” Ramadan said. “These steps must be carried out in parallel with the immediate activation of the political process through direct negotiations in Geneva to address the fundamental issue, which is political transition.”
Ramadan condemned the blatant intervention of the Hezbollah militias in the Qalamoun area and their laying sieges on several towns and villages in the area in an attempt to force local residents out of their homes.
“These actions are aimed at serving Iranian plans to bring about a demographic change in the area, which includes large areas of Rural Damascus,” Ramadan went on.
Moreover, Ramadan called for a unified Arab and international position to ensure the withdrawal of all terrorist militias from all Syrian territory. He urged the Lebanese government to take the necessary measures under international supervision to prevent the crossing of elements of these militias from Lebanon to Syria to commit crimes and fight alongside the Assad gangs against the Syrian people.
With regards to the upcoming meetings in Geneva and Astana, Ramadan said that the Astana process is facing a “fundamental challenge, which is the number of agreements reached, signatories, and guarantors involved, especially as most of the parties refuse to accept Iran as guarantor.”
The Geneva process has not yet risen to the level of the "political process,” Ramadan added. “The Geneva process has so far taken the form of dialogue among the parties and the UN envoy and his team. Even the technical consultative mechanism, which is a non-binding mechanism, is being discussed by the opposition and the UN team.”
“It is surprising that the United Nations accepts the negative participation of the delegation of the regime. It is also surprising that the UN views the mere participation of the regime delegation as an achievement, thus departing from the real substance and content of the Geneva process.”
Ramadan concluded his remarks by emphasizing that the continuation of the Geneva process without achieving tangible progress, and especially given the continued military escalation by the regime and its allies and their attempts to resolve the conflict militarily, has hampered the process, undermined popular confidence in it, and sapped the required momentum behind it.
“It is widely believed now that the regime and its backers are exploiting the process to give the impression of engaging in a political process which they have emptied of any substance or meaning.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
More than 1,300 civilians have so far been killed in Raqqa city as battles to capture the city from ISIS have intensified. According to the United Nations, at least 200,000 people have fled the city since April 1.
Local activists said that over 40 people were killed on Thursday after international anti-ISIS coalition jets carried out multiple airstrikes on central Raqqa. Civilian homes inside the city have been subjected to shelling by heavy artillery and guided missiles by the militias of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Moreover, at least 36 civilians were killed on Wednesday by heavy international coalition airstrikes and artillery fire by SDF targeting the city.
Raqqa city has come under constant bombardment for nearly 50 days by the International coalition and the SDF militia. According to figures compiled by the Syrian Coalition’s media office, a total of 1,342 civilians have so far been killed while hundreds more, half of them women and children, have been injured as a result of the heavy bombardment.
Meanwhile, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller told the UN Security Council in a video briefing from Amman, Jordan on Thursday that more than 200,000 civilians have fled their homes in Syria around Raqqa city since April 1. The number included over 30,000 who were displaced in July, Mueller added.
In a press conference held on Friday, the Syrian Coalition strongly condemned attacks on civilians, saying that it deeply regretted the death of civilians at the hands of the International anti-ISIS Coalition.
The Coalition called for an end to attacks on civilians, launching transparent investigations into attacks that have led to the deaths of hundreds and possibly thousands of civilians, including women, children, and entire families.
The Coalition underscored that residents of Raqqa must be allowed to fully administer their province through an elected local council under the supervision of the Syrian Coalition and the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) and with the participation of civil society. It stressed that the city should be administered independently from foreign interference and the influence of extremist forces that do not adhere to the guiding principles of the Syrian revolution and its goals. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition’s legal committee sent a memorandum to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and representatives of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to protest against the attacks on Syrian civilians and refugees by the Hezbollah militias on Syrian civilians and refugees in the Qalamoun area in Syria and the town of Arsal in Lebanon.
The committee highlighted the war crimes being committed against Syrian civilians and refugees at the hands of the terrorist elements of Hezbollah, making it clear that these attacks are causing unspeakable suffering to Syrian civilians and refugees.
The memorandum called on the United Nations to exercise pressure the Lebanese government to improve the situation of Syrian refugees and to protect them from the continued attacks and violations by Hezbollah militias.
The memorandum called for the formation of an independent committee under the supervision of the United Nations to investigate these violations and to ensure the safety and immediate release of Syrian refugees in the custody of the Lebanese army. It also called for permanent international monitoring of the status of Syrian refugees in Lebanon in light of the continued violations against them by Hezbollah.
Moreover, the memorandum called on the Arab League to hold an emergency ministerial meeting to discuss the situation of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, stop the intervention of Lebanese parties in the internal affairs of Syria and condemn Hezbollah's military intervention alongside the Assad regime. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)
Nasr Hariri, head of the delegation of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to Geneva talks, said that Assad and the pillars of this regime will not have any role in any transitional period in Syria. He stressed that the regime is the sole cause of terrorism, adding that terrorism cannot be defeated without addressing its root cause.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, Hariri said: "Everyone is now convinced that fighting terrorism is a priority, and that the Assad regime is practicing terrorism against the Syrian people backed by the Iranian militias and mercenaries, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. The Syrian people are also being subjected to terror by Al-Qaeda and ISIS extremist groups and all groups fighting under their banners.”
“Bringing about political stability is essential to safely claim that the fight against terrorism has succeeded. This stability cannot be achieved except through a clear political transition process in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions," Hariri added. He stressed the need for “international will to find ways to push the stalled political process forward and initiate a genuine political process according to a clear timetable as was stipulated by the UN Security Council resolutions.”
Hariri accused the international community and the United Nations of failing to assume their role and to force the Assad regime and its allies to negotiate in good faith and to seriously discuss the political transition. “This is why we say that there is a party that is intransigent and refuses to engage in this process as it is fully aware it will be the biggest loser in this process.”
“The United Nations cannot push the political process ahead without the presence of an international driving force, which can be achieved through a US-Russian agreement.”
Hariri went on: “Russia and Iran are to blame for the stalled political process as they continue to support the Assad regime and fight alongside it. Without genuine international intervention to create a balance on the battlefield or force the regime's allies to engage in the political process, the role of the United Nations will remain restricted.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Basset Hamou said that the Kurdish National Council (KNC) will continue to resist the authoritarian practices of the militias of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) with all available peaceful means.
“The KNC is fully determined to pursue its peaceful approach," Hamou told Kullana Shurakaa’ website. “The guiding principle we set for ourselves is that the best interests of our people should take precedence above any other considerations."
Hamou pointed out that the PYD militias continue to pursue “arbitrary and barbaric policies against our people, such as the closure of the offices of political parties, the forced recruitment, extortion of money, the kidnapping of leading dissident figures, political and media activists as well as the crackdown on civil society organizations, the stifling of political and economic life and the imposition of ideology-driven curriculum in schools.”
The PYD militias are seeking to ignite an infighting among the Kurds with the aim of distracting the people away from their primary goals and concerns, Hamou said. He said that “the KNC does nourish hope that the PYD will give up its authoritarian policies as a totalitarian party."
On the relationship between the KNC and the Coalition, Hamou pointed out that the Council is a major component of the Coalition, adding that the two sides signed off on an agreement on a common vision for the future of Syria. The Council also participated in all the previous meetings in Geneva and is a major component of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Ministry of Agriculture in the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) and the Coalition’s aid arm the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) discussed ways to develop agriculture and stockbreeding in the liberated areas during a meeting held on Friday.
The two sides agreed that ACU will provide support to the general livestock-breeding establishment, the statistics centers project, and the mill project given the success of previous projects developed by the two sides.
In addition, an initial agreement was reached to establish a platform for food security through which projects will be developed and ideas exchanged. The agreement also included the need to secure funding for these projects from donor countries.
Assistant Minister of Agriculture Eng. Ali Ismail stressed the importance of coordination between the Ministry and ACU as he thanked ACU for supporting the Ministry.
Ismail pointed out that the Ministry runs six public institutions operating on the ground in most of the Syrian provinces. He said that these institutions will contribute to the development of agriculture and stockbreeding, which will help diversify sources of revenues for SIG and ensure food diversity for the civilian population in those areas.
ACU’s Executive Director Mohamed Hasno spoke about ACU’s role as a national institution in the coordination between donors and implementing partners on the ground, including local councils, directorates, and civil society organizations.
Hasno reviewed ACU’s main tasks, namely the assessment of needs, the preparation of periodic reports, the development of public services projects, advocacy, monitoring, and evaluation. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
President of the Syrian Coalition Riad Seif said that the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) has implemented important public service projects in the liberated areas despite the scarcity of resources. Seif called on donor states to step up support for SIG so as to enable it to preserve state institutions and ensure the continuation of their work.
Seif was speaking during a meeting with representatives of donor countries in SIG’s office in the Turkish city of Gaziantep on Thursday. SIG’s head Jawad Abu Hatab and a number of ministers, heads of provincial councils and directorates, officials of Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), and representative of civil society organizations participated in the meeting.
Seif said that SIG has made “great achievements” despite the scarcity of resources, noting that it will “achieve more thanks to the efforts of workers if it receives the necessary material support.”
Seif pointed out that securing support for SIG is high on the Coalition’s list of priorities. Supporting SIG is crucial to preserving state institutions in the liberated areas and to ensure continuity in administrative systems and ways of life, he added.
Abu Hatab pointed out that SIG represents all components of the Syrian people. “SIG ministers are working on Syrian territory alongside staff worker. SIG ministries have their own administrative structures supported by all components of the Syrian people in the liberated areas."
"SIG has accepted this difficult, challenging task to create a democratic system based on transparency to counterbalance extremist and separatist projects as well as to ensure equal opportunities for women and men and for people from all denominations in Syria,” Abu Hatab said. He went on to say that SIG is seeking to boost coordination among all the opposition institutions.
At the end of the meeting, EU representatives commended SIG work in the liberated areas, noting that such efforts primarily benefit the civilian population in those areas. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition condemned the attacks being carried out by Hay'at Tahrir Alsham (HTS) against civilians as well as its harassment and prosecution of civilians in Idlib. The Coalition also condemned HTS killing of unarmed persons.
In a press release issued on Thursday, the Coalition reiterated its condemnation of attacks on any of the rebel groups by extremist groups. The Coalition stressed that any group involved in infighting and that directs its weapons against unarmed civilians in denunciation of the principles and aspirations of the Syrian people cannot be a part of the Syrian revolution but stands on the side of the Assad regime and its backers.
The Coalition underscored the need for all the Free Syrian Army groups to unify against extremist forces and reject any orientations or ideas that contradict the principles of the Syrian revolution and the rights of the Syrian people to freedom, justice, and dignity.
All efforts need also to be unified to confront the crimes of the Assad regime, the foreign occupation forces, and the terrorist militias supporting them, the Coalition added. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
In the past few hours, Russian warplanes have committed a series of horrific massacres in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces. A Russian air strike has killed at least 15 civilians in the town of Ayyash, west of Deir Ezzor, including 10 people from one family.
The Russian air force also committed more massacres in the district of Seif Aldawla in Raqqa city as well as in the villages of Ma'aden and Zour Shummar in rural Raqqa claiming the lives of dozens of civilians and wounding many more.
The Syrian Coalition condemned these crimes which are “directly targeting civilians in blatant violation of international law." "Russia is using the ISIS extremist group as an excuse to justify its crimes against humanity and against Syrian civilians,” the Coalition said.
In a press release issued on Thursday, the Coalition stressed that these repeated, deliberate crimes by the Russian occupiers are “part of a plan that seeks to exploit the inaction of the international community which seems to have chosen to stand idly by while the occupiers carry out their crimes against the Syrian people.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Rahman Mustafa said the top priority of the international community should be to hold Bashar al-Assad and his clique accountable for the thousands of war crimes they have committed in Syria.
The Assad regime does not threaten the security of Syria alone, but also threatens the stability of the entire region and beyond, Mustafa said. He cited the Assad regime’s support for Qaeda in Iraq and for the Hezbollah militias in Lebanon and its involvement in the assassination of a number of leaders and officials in Lebanon and Arab countries.
Mustafa stressed that the attempts to produce or rehabilitate the Assad regime are contrary to international laws and risk threatening international peace and security. He stressed that the Syrian people will no longer accept to be ruled by a regime that killed more than half a million Syrians, displaced millions more, and destroyed the state economy.
Mustafa made it clear that the failure of the international community to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable or refer him to the International Criminal Court will not dissuade the Syrian people from their demands for freedom and dignity and the transition to a democratic state that guarantees respect and equality for all.
Throughout its history, Syria has never accepted to be divided, Mustafa said. He added that Syria will recover from the current crisis and will be independent of the Russian and Iranian occupation and without Bashar al-Assad. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)