Syria’s new ‘reconciliation minister’ offers plan to stymie carnage
By Frederik Pleitgen and Holly Yan CNN
June 18, 2013 — Updated 0745 GMT (1545 HKT)
- Syria’s president appoints Ali Haidar as the new national reconciliation minister
- Haidar says all parts of the government should be up for negotiation
- But he says there can’t be any preconditions to talks
- Haidar challenges claims that the regime used chemical weapons on rebels
Damascus, Syria (CNN) — Ali Haidar has a job title that may sound more like a pipe dream than an official post.
But Syria’s new minister for national reconciliation said he believes the country can still unite for a political solution — even after two years of incessant bloodshed and more than 92,000 deaths.
In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, Haidar said all parts of the Syrian government should be up for negotiation.
“The best compromise that we can achieve today is that the regime and we, as a part of the homeland peaceful opposition, agree to the negotiating table without any preconditions, without excluding anybody from the opposition — which means everything is subject to discussion,” Haidar said.
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And that includes the presidency.
“The office of the president is a matter related to the whole political structure of the country … and we believe the shape and structure should be discussed among Syrians and should be decided by the Syrians in a referendum because only the Syrian people can decide what happens.”
But Haidar, who was appointed by President Bashar al-Assad, emphasized there can’t be any preconditions to political talks between the opposition and government.
Preconditions have been a major sticking point, as members of the opposition have said they won’t negotiate with the regime unless al-Assad steps down from four decades of family rule. Similarly, the government has said it won’t deal with “terrorists” — a term often used to describe rebels.
So the fighting on the ground rages on, killing about 5,000 people a month, according to the United Nations. Thousands of children have died in the conflict.
“The military problems on the ground only deal with the problem of violence. It does not resolve the political crisis,” Haidar said. He said the only solution is a political one, not a military one.
Haidar’s comments came days after the United States announced it will start arming Syrian rebels, who have begged the world for more weapons to fight al-Assad’s better equipped military. The Obama administration said Syria’s government had crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons — including sarin gas — against the opposition.
But Haidar challenged assertions by the United States, Britain and France that the regime used chemical weapons.
“The talk about chemical weapons is only for political reasons,” Haidar said. “So far, no one has proved anything about who used them and where they were used, and who was behind using the chemical weapons.”
But with a precondition of having no preconditions for a political dialogue, it’s unclear if or when “national reconciliation” will take place.
CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen reported from Damascus; Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta.
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