Gov't-organized consultative meeting for national dialogue opens to discuss crisis in Syria

13:31, July 11, 2011      

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The consultative meeting for national dialogue opens in Damascus, Syria, July 10, 2011. The government-organized consultative meeting which aims to bring in pro- and anti-regime figures to discuss the crisis in the country opened Sunday here amid low-show from the opposition's prominent figures. (Xinhua/Bassem)

The government-organized consultative meeting which aims to bring in pro- and anti-regime figures to discuss the crisis in the country opened Sunday here amid low-show from the opposition's prominent figures.

The dialogue body recently formed by President Bashar al-Assad has sent invitations to opposition figures, but they turned them down, citing the government's failure to meet their demands, mainly an immediate halt of military crackdown in some Syrian cities, the release of political detainees and allowing peaceful demonstrations.

The two-day meeting would discuss three substantial issues, namely, laying down the bases for the national dialogue conference through presenting a clear vision for Syria's economic, political and social future; reaching an agreement on the demanded constitutional amendments; and the endorsement of three draft laws that would introduce radical changes in the public life.

Addressing the opening session, Syrian Vice-President Farouk al- Sharaa said the meeting aims to discuss the transition to a democratic and pluralistic state, in which all citizens will be equal and participate in shaping their country's future.

He said preparations will start after this meeting for the overall national conference, to which more opposition figures would be invited.

He confessed that the dialogue has not been started in a comfortable climate inside or outside Syria, referring to the situation "engulfed by a lot of doubts and suspicion and harbors a considerable amount of rejection and anxiety."

"Dialogue is not an offer from somebody... it's not a concession by the government to the people... it's rather a duty," said al-Sharaa.

He stressed that there is no alternative for dialogue at the current stage, adding that he is optimistic about the future of the dialogue.

"The country is now in the spotlight," he said, stressing that he is hopeful and "confident" that President Assad will meet all his promises.

Al-Sharaa said unlicensed demonstration will lead to more casualties among policemen and civilians.

He stressed that the choice of dialogue is "irreversible" and should continue in order to open a new page in Syria's history, adding that the country would not be able to reach freedom and civil peace without a democratic, political and multi-party system that would emerge from this dialogue.

A large number of people attending the opening session, they gave their presentations that focused on the need to amend the constitution, mainly article number eight which provides that the Baath party is the leader of the state and society, in addition to the need that the army ends its military operations in some cities.

They also urged the government to accelerate reforms, release political detainees, deal in a democratic way with peaceful demonstrators, as well as to hold accountable all those involved in acts of killings.

The basic demand was a swift endorsement of the laws of media, elections and party, and the abrogation of law 49 that sentences to death all those affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Some of the participants stressed that the country is facing a "real crisis" and dialogue is the sole way to put an end to it.

Al-Tayyeb Tizini, a dissident, said "I wish bullets would be stopped first," adding "laying the foundations for a political society requires a practical dismantlement of the dominating security state."

Mohammad Habash, a parliamentarian, lashed out at the security forces' practices in handling the protests and the absence of basic freedoms, which he said "have been remarkably aggravated during the past years and led to a congestion that burst into anger in the streets."

He blamed most of what is happening in Syria on the "internal congestion that has resulted from injustice, repression and the role of the security state."

Omar Osso, head of the Kurdish National Initiative and a dissident, reiterated the Kurds' basic demands, mainly to obtain the Syrian nationality and to assume political posts.

Speaking to supporters at Damascus University, President al- Assad announced last month that a national dialogue would start soon and he was forming a committee to study constitutional amendments, including one that would open the way to forming political parties other than the Baath Party.

The nearly four-month unrest in Syria has sparked the need for dialogue between all forces that represent the Syrian people to find an outlet to the country's turmoil, however, opposition activists, most live outside Syria, said it's too late for any efforts to bridge the gap between the regime and the protesters.

Activists say security forces have killed more than 1,400 people across Syria since the beginning of the unrest in mid-March, while the authorities disputes the toll, pinning the unrest on gangs and armed groups that aimed to foment sectarian strife in the country.

Source: Xinhua

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