Dubai: The head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main umbrella group for opponents of President Bashar Al Assad, said on Sunday that talks would be held within weeks to form a transitional government that would in time replace Assad’s ministerial team.
Abdul Basit Sida, president of the SNC, said such a government would run the country between Al Assad’s ousting and democratic elections. Most of its members would be drawn from the opposition, but some members of the current Al Assad government might also be included, he added.
“This government should come about before the fall [of Al Assad] so that it presents itself as an alternative for the next stage,” Sida told Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia television in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
“The committees that we have set up have their own schedules. Obviously, the matter should be concluded within weeks.”
“There are some elements in the current regime who are not bloodstained, who were not part of major corruption cases. We will discuss [including them] with other parties, but there should be a national consensus to accept them.”
However, criticism about the SNC’s legitimacy may complicate its efforts to form a transitional government.
It clearly backs the Free Syrian Army, despite having not always overtly supported it in the past.
But it has sometimes struggled to overcome internal divisions and critics have accused the Istanbul-based organisation of being out of touch, overly influenced by Turkey, and not fully representative of the opposition.
INITIAL INVOLVEMENT OF TLAS RULED OUT
Visiting Abu Dhabi to meet United Arab Emirates officials, Sida did not say when exactly a transitional government might be formed, telling a news conference in the early hours of Sunday that he had discussed the idea with Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s foreign minister.
The SNC has set up two committees to discuss the idea; the first will communicate with the Free Syrian Army, the major rebel military group, while the second will deal with all other opposition groups, said Sida.
Last week, Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, one of the most senior defectors to flee Syria, said he would try to help unite Syria’s fragmented opposition inside and outside the country in order to agree a roadmap for a power transfer.
Sida said he welcomed Tlas’ defection, but said the general could not be involved in the early stages of organising a transitional government.
“The dialogue and coordination have to first be with the Free Syrian Army and the various members of the Syrian opposition movements, and after that if there are some roles to be played by members who have defected, then so be it — but with the condition that there is an agreement between the Syrians about that.”
Sida also ruled out the possibility of Tlas becoming head of a transitional government. “This has to be a person who can lead a national government and who has been committed to the revolution since the beginning,” he said.