The former head of the Syrian opposition coalition, Hadi Al-Bahra, has announced that it is his and Syria's duty to find a way to live with the regime following eight years of war.
Speaking at the first round of talks between the Syrian opposition and regime figures in Geneva this week, Al-Bahra told the UAE-based newspaper the National yesterday that "This will show of our resolve and insistence to reach a fair political solution to the crisis through the complete implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2254."
The statement of reconciliation from such a senior member of the opposition, who is a co-chair of the talks along with UN Special Envoy to Syria Gier Pederson and the regime co-chair Ahmad Al-Kuzbari, contradicts the years of struggle and enmity to the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad since it brutally crushed protestors and ignited the civil war in 2011.
To find a resolution to the conflict which has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands and displaced approximately half of Syria's pre-war population is "a duty to our country", stressed Al-Bahra. "We are all Syrian, and as Syrians we have to live together."
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Among the primary issues that are being discussed in the talks is that of democratic institutions and the building of a new constitution agreed upon by all sides.
"When we discuss the issue of a constitution, we have to be serious about all articles, the most important is the separation of power," Al-Bahra said, referring to the executive, legislative and judicial branches which make up a democratic state and hold each other accountable. To do this, he added: "The mission of the committee will be to review Syria's constitutional history from 1920 and onwards."
Regarding this process, the opposition demands that the committee should draw up a new document of the constitution that will "guarantee the dignity of citizens as well as preserving and protecting the freedom of the public." This new social, economic and legal contract "would guarantee equality, justice and freedom and will open a new page in our history," the official said.
Al-Bahra highlighted the importance of the international community and key players' support, adding that the peace-making process and the Constitutional Committee – which the UN supports – "has been on the table for two years, but it moved nowhere until it had enough support from the international community…that's what made it active."
Despite the talks going forward and the internationally-monitored peace process having a positive effect in the eyes of many, there have arisen increasing concerns that it only legitimises the Assad regime and dismisses its war crimes and the human rights violations it committed prior to and throughout the war, including the torture to death of 14,000 Syrians and abduction or detainment of 100,000 since the start of the war.
Even those Syrians who have voluntarily and forcefully returned to the regime's territory – particularly from Lebanon – have been subject to arrest, interrogation and even torture, betraying the guarantee of safety and reconciliation which persuaded them to come. It undermines the narrative put forward by the Syrian regime and its allies that its recaptured territory is secure from the effects of the eight-year civil war that has ravaged Syria and that it is open to attempts at reconciliation and pardon.