Syria's opposition rejects Turkey's bid for peace with Assad's government

Comments by Turkey's foreign minister spark protests and controversy in Syria's rebel-held areas

Syrians with an opposition flag in Azaz, in rebel-held north Aleppo province, protest against a proposal from the Turkish foreign minister for a reconciliation between the Syrian government and the opposition. August 12, 2022.  AFP
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Syria’s opposition on Friday rejected calls from Turkey for a reconciliation with the government, a senior member told The National.

A peaceful uprising against Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad started in early 2011 and turned into a full-scale civil war. The deadly crackdown on protesters has taken thousands of lives, devastated cities and led to interference from other countries.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are among those who have been drawn into the deadly unrest.

“The only thing they think about now is reconciliation with the regime … what reconciliation with a killer? This means that all the crimes being perpetrated during these 12 years would be erased,” Yahya Al Aridi, a senior member and spokesman for Syria’s opposition told The National.

“This is unbelievable, however, when Russia and Iran’s political gains and deals start to decrease then peace will prevail in Syria,” said Mr Al Aridi.

It would set a precedent in the world for any dictator to do the same thing and run away with their crimes
Yahya Al Aridi, spokesman for Syria's opposition

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said this week on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Belgium that there will not be “permanent peace” without the opposition and government’s reconciliation.

"We have to somehow get the opposition and the regime to reconcile in Syria. Otherwise, there will be no lasting peace, we always say this," he said to diplomats.

It is thought the only solution to Syria's war will be through the implementation of UN resolutions.

Various rounds of UN-led peace talks have failed to make any progress towards getting the two sides to agree to a peaceful solution.

"If — and it’s a very big if — the international community and those who care about peace and human rights, want to help in Syria, there are UN resolutions that are clear," Mr Al Aridi said.

"They talk about a political solution with a transitional Syrian body including members who did not commit any crimes or killings. In other words, the Assad regime has no place in the Syrian solution."

Comments spark protests in Syria

The Turkish minister's comments caused protests to break out in Syria's rebel-held north late on Thursday.

The calls for protests came after Friday prayers in key cities that fall under the control of Turkish forces and their supporters, including in Al Bab, Afrin and Jarablus.

Similar calls were made in Idlib, controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham and other rebel groups, to gather at border crossings with Turkey.

About half a million people have died in the conflict in Syria, which has destroyed large areas of the country and displaced millions of people.

Since the outbreak of the war, Turkey has hosted the world's largest refugee population, with nearly four million Syrians under temporary protection. That is in addition to more than 320,000 refugees and asylum-seekers under international protection.

"Syrians along the border and in Turkey are being fed by its government, almost half of Syria is reliant on this relationship with Turkey, so if it breaks then you will break the whole thing," Mr Al Aridi said.

Turkey, however, does not have the right to "be the custodian of the Syrian case”, he said.

Updated: August 12, 2022, 3:23 PM