On January 30, 2013, Moaz al-Khatib, head of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, announced his views on the urgent need for steps to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. This announcement included an offer to negotiate a transition with representatives of the Syrian regime if they first met two preconditions—freeing 160,000 political prisoners in Syrian jails and renewing the passports of Syrians who had lived abroad for two years.
Al-Khatib’s announcement created immediate controversy and was strongly rejected by members of the Syrian National Council. He posted a second statement that same day on his official website to provide further clarification and respond to his critics.
Moaz al-Khatib’s original statement and subsequent explanation have been translated by Carnegie and appear below.
Who says that finding a solution to humanitarian suffering is equivalent to hijacking the revolution?
Who says that a meeting marks the end of a revolution?
Who says that the removal of the regime is not a priority of the revolution?
Who says that we should stop trying to fulfill the goals of the revolution since its demands are more than we could ever achieve?
Individuals, organizations, friendly governments and the political opposition should support the Syrian people and relieve their hunger, siege, and humiliation. Those who are close should help before those who are far.
I will say it frankly: there are some rebels on the ground who cannot afford the price of bread and yet will continue defending the revolution until their last breath. These fighters are the arm of the revolution that has faced fire, steel, terrorism, and prison.
There are countries that make promises they do not keep, and there are those who urge the Syrians to fight and then abandon them mid-battle.
There are those who pledged to help the revolutionaries but then left them to die.
There are those who sit on their sofas urging attack and discouraging negotiation.
We are not negotiating to keep the regime but negotiating to remove it with the least amount of blood and destruction.
There is international silence and stifling of the revolution.
There are those who say that there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians.
There are hundreds of young girls who are being sold like slaves by rogues.
There are those who are planning to eradicate Syria from the earth with a vicious war that lasts for years.
Did we learn from the Baathists to deny everything before understanding it, even before reading it?
Are we only thinking now of parity of the first degree?
Should I tell you that some people are saying that the revolution in Syria will not succeed until it triumphs in other countries? This belief is suffocating Syria and its revolutionaries, heroes, and fighters.
The idea I proposed is my personal opinion, and I take responsibility for it.
The coalition has a meeting tomorrow of its temporary political body, which will decide on the official stance of the coalition.
This is my personal opinion, and I stand by my right to state it.
The individuals, organizations, and governments that object should express their own opinions, but I will not accept any kind of intellectual terrorism. If anyone thinks that no Syrians or revolutionaries would want to hear these opinions, then they are deluded.
Sincerely, and with respect to all,
Interview with Al-Jazeera, 1-30-2013 with Sheikh Mo’az al-Khatib explaining his statement on conditional talks with the regime:
There are people who understood that you are ready to negotiate with anyone in the regime?
The statement that was made yesterday provoked many people who didn’t even read it till the end. This was said to help reduce the suffering of Syrians. We also said that we would only negotiate on the departure of the regime and not with anyone who is guilty of taking part in the killing of the Syrian people. Our goals do not conflict with the revolution; the revolution is our goal, but the suffering of our people is so great and to us the people come first.
There are people who understood that you are ready to negotiate with anyone in the regime:
The statement had two parts, and the second part was clarifying the first in that the negotiations would only be about the departure of the regime. However, we concentrated on the issues that were troubling the Syrian people and we were asked why we did not mention other issues, but those were the first conditions we would set to negotiate with those who are not guilty of killing and who are truly concerned about the future of this country
Do you expect clashes with the Syrian National Council?
We and the Syrian National Council agree on all the issues that would help decrease the suffering of the Syrian people.