Syrian Activist's Offer Of Talks With Assad Draws Mixed Response | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Syrian Activist's Offer Of Talks With Assad Draws Mixed Response

Moaz al-Khatib sent waves through the Syrian activist community this week when he announced via Facebook that he was open to talks with representatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime on two conditions: that political prisoners, thought to number in the tens of thousands, be released; and exiled Syrians be able to renew their passports at embassies abroad.

This is the first time that one of the main Syrian opposition groups has agreed to talk to the Assad government or the regime's allies, namely Iran and Russia.

NPR's Kelly McEvers reports that "up until now, the main Syrian opposition groups ... contended the regime simply has too much blood on its hands, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down before any talks can start."

Criticism from within Khatib's own ranks was swift, but so was support form Syrians both inside and out of the country.

Activists in the town of Saraqib, near Idlib, held a poster that reads "Sheikh Moaz al Khatib represents me."

Many syrians are tired. The uprising that started as a protest movement two years ago but has since turned into a civil war has killed more than 60,000 people and left millions homeless.

"Any strategy to alleviate the suffering of our people is legitimate and even a duty," Majid al-Shoufi says in a Facebook comment on Khatib's original post.

Shoufi adds: "let [Assad] go, and God and history will take care of him... let us live in peace."

But as NPR's McEvers reports, while some Syrians welcome the talks, for others "it's unthinkable to negotiate with a regime responsible for killing tens of thousands of people."

In this poster seen in Kafr Nabl, also near Idlib, a likeness of Khatib says: "Yes, Dialogue with Killers," and a young girl asks: "But what about the blood of my father?"

Shakeeb al-Jabri, a pro-democracy Syrian activist based in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, called Khatib's move "illegal." He said on Twitter:

"SOC [the Syrian Opposition Coalition] leader Moaz AlKhatib violated the SOC charter with his announcement that he is willing to engage in dialog with the regime."

The coalition's founding document, the Doha Agreement, states that all coalition members agree "not to engage in dialogue or negotiations with the existing regime."

But as Khatib said, a quote one activist later drafted on a poster: "We're not negotiating for the regime to stay, we're negotiating for its departure."

Lava Selo contributed reporting

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

WWI Diaries Of Poet Siegfried Sassoon Go Public For First Time

Nearly a dozen notebooks and journals by the author, who fought in the British Army during the war, are being released to coincide with the centenary of the start of the conflict.
NPR

Cheap Eats: Cookbook Shows How To Eat Well On A Food Stamp Budget

A Canadian scholar was unimpressed with the cookbooks available for people on food stamps in the U.S. So she decided to come up with her own set of tips and recipes for eating well on $4 a day.
WAMU 88.5

McDonnell Corruption Trial: Defense Zeroes In On Star Witness' Credibility

Defense attorney William Burck is focusing on inconsistencies in what Jonnie Williams told investigators as well as his stock dealings.
NPR

Simmering Online Debate Shows Emoji Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

A report from a local Philadelphia TV station is re-igniting a debate and getting people all up in arms. (Or should we say, up in hands?)

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.