Negotiating a political solution for a democratic Syria
The Syrian authorities’ refusal to acknowledge the Syrian people’s revolution and its legitimate claims for freedom and dignity, their insistence on labeling it a conspiracy, and their violent military-security response, has pushed the people’s revolution to unprecedented extremes of bloodletting. In addition, the international community’s failure to perform its duties in finding a solution to this issue has prolonged the period of the conflict.
The Syrian issue has entered into escalating stages of complexity and militarization resulting from the regime’s repressive policies and the actions of terrorist and extremist forces, In addition to interventions of various forms which have transformed Syria into an arena of international and regional conflict tainted by violence and sectarianism. All of these factors represent an existential threat to Syria and a danger to the region. With the impossibility of a military resolution by any party, the armed conflicts lead us towards the bleakest scenarios, ones that will leave the Syria state and people as the biggest losers of all.
Issued on January 24, 2015, the “Cairo Declaration for Syria” (CDS) established the groundwork to create an atmosphere of joint action and collective mobilization to save the country. The CDS founded the elements of the national political program, which comprise of acknowledging the aspirations of the Syrian people and their revolution, preserving Syria’s territorial integrity and the unity of its people, affirming Syria’s independence, respecting and supporting its sovereignty over its entire territory, and preserving the Syrian state with all of its institutions through the implementation of the “Geneva Communiqué” issued by the International Action Group for Syrian on 30 June 2012.
Through this vision, we provide to the Syrian people and to the international community with this exhaustive map of practical implementation mechanisms which is achievable and able to move Syrians toward a political compromise. The aim of this compromise is to fundamentally and comprehensively change the regime, and achieve a pluralistic democratic system, which is the only means to provide freedom, dignity, justice and equality for all Syrians.
Our perception stems from the tragic impossibility of a military resolution as well as the continuation of the current regime, and its president, who have no place in the future of Syria. We have embraced the solution of political negotiation as the only way to save Syria. These negotiations, between two separate delegations of both the opposition and the government, should be held under the patronage of the United Nations, and with the blessings of the countries that are influential in the Syrian situation.
The two delegations should achieve an agreement that includes an implementation program for the Geneva communiqué. The two sides should set a timetable, clear mechanisms, and binding guarantees to ensure implementation. These guarantees and commitments require the full cooperation of influential regional countries, and the legal cover of a Security Council resolution that enforces these guarantees and establishes a general framework to support the implementation of the road map.
First: the desired political regime in Syria
The political objective of the direct negotiating process is to move ahead to a parliamentary, pluralistic, democratic, and deliberative regime. A national charter should set the features of the desired regime. This national charter, in turn, should be based on the principle of equal citizenship in rights and duties for all Syrians, regardless of gender, ethnicity, creed or doctrine. We hope to achieve the rule of law and institutions for all citizens and components of our homeland. This state should have the sole legitimate right to bear arms, as its mission is to enact the state’s sovereignty over all of its territory, to defend itself and its citizens, and to provide services to its citizens, in addition to consolidating the separation of powers and organizing rights and duties, respecting the constitution and laws, criminalizing political sectarianism, and fighting terrorism in all its forms and sources.
Second: paving the way for the political settlement process before and during the negotiation
The negotiation process cannot be initiated in the absence of any form of agreement between the negotiating parties. It is difficult to reach a detailed agreement and identify its mechanisms due to the absence of any tangible and immediate indicators, provided to the Syrian people, of change in policy, approaches and means. This absence, in addition to the adoption and insistence on the same policies, approaches and means has resulted in violence being the only rising constant in recent years. Therefore, it is necessary for the two parties to adopt, immediately and from the outset, the following measures along with the joint mechanisms for their implementation, with international cover and support provided by the Security Council.
1- Immediate announcement of the cessation of the armed conflict by all parties on all Syrian territories, considering any violator of this principle as being excluded from national and international legitimacy. The state army forces and the armed factions which believe in the political solution should hold their positions with the aim of halting the armed conflict and preparing for withdrawal or redeployment in accordance with the implementation program of the agreement between the two sides. The moderate armed forces which adopt the political solution have the legitimate right to defend themselves in case of an attack from any another armed party. All of this should be conducted under the direct supervision of the United Nations and its observer team, which should be comprised of countries that are not involved in the Syrian conflict, and which will be deployed in the areas that have announced their acceptance of the halt in armed conflict.
2- A common and clear commitment from the international, regional and Syrian parties to stop supporting armed groups, and to condemn the presence of all non-Syrians fighters and expel them from Syrian territory, and an immediate demand that all countries, groups and foreign armed personnel who are fighting alongside the regime (such as Hezbollah and the Quds Force) and their supporters, and those who are fighting against the regime (such as ISIS and Al-Nusra Front) and their supporters, all leave the Syrian territory. Regional and international states should undertake to respect this commitment and the criminal consequences for violating it. The international observers’ team should ensure the respect and implementation of this article.
- All parties should start releasing detainees and abductees who are in captivity in connection to the events of the revolution. They must issue a general amnesty for all wanted Syrians of both civilians and military personnel. For implementation of this article, the formation of a joint committee 50/50 for oversight is required.
- Each party should pledge to create a suitable climate in its controlled area, to allow the Syrians to return to their homes and workplaces. An immediate step is required for providing urgent and temporary accommodation in addition to facilities for education and necessary administrative organization. All these steps are required as a preparation for a dignified return, with the provision of security and primary necessities of life.
- Allowing the return of all politically dissenting citizens who are living abroad for various reasons, without any security, legal or political consequences. The fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly must be guaranteed.
- Commitment to permit the work of journalists, media, human rights defenders and humanitarian activists in all areas.
- Pledge to allow international relief organizations to operate in all areas of Syria, in addition to providing assistance in delivering relief aid for people in need.
- Repeal all verdicts issued by the terrorism courts, the exceptional verdicts, and those which were issued by the ordinary courts in connection to events since March 2011, so that all their implications and consequences are abolished, as well as abolition of all decisions regarding confiscation, naturalization and property ownership of foreigners, and abolition of all courts founded in areas outside government control.
- Follow-up on the files of restitution damages and resolving grievances, in addition to rehabilitation for those who were dismissed from service and were stripped of their civil rights by exceptional courts’ verdicts, or arbitrarily due to political reasons. A settlement of their jobs and moral rights is also required.
Third: the Interim Governing body
The two sides should agree on the formation of the Interim Governing Body (IGB) which will have all legislative and executive powers.
The following institutions should represent organs of the IGB and the designation of its members and chairpersons should be completed within two months from the start of negotiations under international guarantees.
- The National Transitional Council (NTC)
Legislation and oversight of the government in the transitional phase is the NTC’s main task. The NTC must include representatives from all alliances and political forces which support the democratic transition, in addition to representatives of civil society so that it reflects all components of the Syrian people in a balanced and fair manner. The NTC will sign and issue the National Charter for the future, in addition to a temporary constitutional declaration.
- The Supreme Judicial Council
Formation of the “Supreme Judicial Council” and definition of its duties. Its members should be selected from among the neutral independent judges who are known for their competence and integrity.
- The Government of the transitional period
Formation of a “transitional government” and definition of its duties, and the designation of its members and the distribution of its portfolios. Therefore, and in accordance with the Geneva communiqué, this government will enjoy all executive powers over civil and military matters granted to the Presidency and the Council of Ministers in the current Constitution.
- The National Transitional Military Council (NTMC)
The NTMC should comprise of officers from all military forces which believe in the political solution and the democratic transition. The NTMC will act under the authority of the transitional government, and all military sectors are subject to its control. The NTMC’s main tasks are as follows: leadership of the military and security forces / Managing the integration of the armed factions which adopt the political solution / Maintenance of security and stability / Fighting against terrorism and terrorist organizations, in addition to fighting against any groups or armed elements that cooperate with the terrorist groups, or reject the political solution and continue to fight / Starting the process of extending Syrian sovereignty over the entirety of its territory.
- The Independent Supreme Commission of Fairness, Justice and Reconciliation (ISCFJR)
The National Transitional Council will establish the “Independent Supreme Commission of Fairness, Justice and Reconciliation” (ISCFJR), and define its duties as a body reporting to the council. The ISCFJR will draw up a program for national reconciliation and restoration of civil peace, in addition to supervision of the transitional justice program. It will also work to heal the rift that has struck the Syrian social fabric as a result of the previous years’ events.
Fourth: basic procedures in the transitional period
- The National Transitional Council (NTC) will announce the suspension of the current constitution and all related provisions and affiliated governing bodies. Also, The NTC will announce the abolition of all laws , measures and exceptional discriminatory projects and it will announce the separation of the Baath Party from all state institutions, including army and security forces, in addition to implementing what will be agreed upon.
- One of the transitional government’s urgent tasks is to complete the procedures that are included in the article: “Paving the way for a political settlement process before and during the negotiations” of this road map, and to initiate the restructuring of the armed forces, police and security services, as well as the reintegration of officers and soldiers who had defected in its institutions, in addition to organizing its work in accordance with the constitutional principles and the International Bill of Human Rights. For this purpose, it may ask for international help and support, technical and material, through the related programs of the United Nations and the donor countries, as well as the expertise of the Arab countries.
- To mandate a team of specialists, from the widest possible representation of the Syrian people, to prepare a new draft Syrian constitution. Following that, the National Transitional Council will adopt the draft constitution, and submit it to the Syrian people for a referendum under the supervision of the United Nations.
- 4. The government should set up an immediate program for reconstruction and the return of refugees and displaced persons, and should call, in this regard, for an international donors’ conference, where regional and international powers pledge support for rebuilding economy. The government should also establish a national fund, in cooperation with supporting countries, to organize the budget of refugees’ return, as well as construction and development. Expenditure shall be subject to supervision by the legislative, administrative and civil authorities. Meanwhile, accountability will be the main task of the judiciary authority with the purpose of rationalizing usage and shutting down avenues of corruption and waste.
- The transitional period will last only two years and will be ended by holding local, legislative, and presidential general elections. These general elections will be conducted in accordance with the new constitution and under the supervision of the concerned international and regional organizations.
Fifth: international action to support the negotiations and the transitional process
Because of the complexities of the Syrian crisis, and the regional and international interventions within it, particularly the complications arising from the armed conflict in the country, and the difficulty of reaching a voluntary halt to military action by Syrian combatants, it is necessary that any agreement between the Syrian sides should be guaranteed and ensured by the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Arab and regional countries. Therefore, those states and parties should be the witness and the guarantor of the implementation of the agreement.
Note: On june-09-2015, the Syrian opposition conference, held in Cairo-Egypt, in the presence of 168 participants from more than 30 political and civil organizations, had approved and adopted this road map.