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Syrian Opposition Sets Pre-Conditions in Pay-to-Play Briefing of UNCA, FUNCA Info Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- When the lobbying delegation of Syrian oppositionists were signed up for a presentation inside the UN building, perhaps they though it was a UN press conference. It was not: it was publicized only to money-paying members of the UN Correspondents' Association.

Even so Najib Ghadbian, called by UN the "Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations," did not know the name of UNCA, calling it the "Press Association." It is not -- it's now known as the UN's Censorship Alliance.

Before the Syrian opposition lobbyists' remarks, some set out below, Inner City Press for the new Free UN Coalition for Access went to the noon briefing where it was the only media to ask any questions. Video here, from Minute 7:02 and before and after. It asked:

Inner City Press: currently, there is a meeting in the North Lawn Building of the Syrian coalition with members of the Security Council. I’ve seen, although it wasn’t sent to me, a notice of a press conference in the UN building by the Syrian Coalition in room 310 of the United Nations, and I wanted you to describe what this press conference is. Is it a UN press conference? Is it only open to individuals who have paid money in order to attend it? And I saw one of the speakers described as the Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations, and I wanted to know, is there such a thing? Is there official representation to the United Nations by the Syrian opposition and on what basis does the UN give a large room to the UN Correspondents Association for meetings of this type, which they only promote to members that pay them money?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, I’ll have to check on that, Matthew. I don’t have the information with me, but we’ll check on that and get back to you.

Inner City Press: Okay, I’d really like an answer soon, before the meeting takes place would be ideal.

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, we’re going to try.

  Neither before the meeting nor as of this writing at 6:45 pm was any answer given by the UN -- but it's going to have to be.

  In the interim Inner City Press put together a short video from outside the session, here.

Because FUNCA and Inner City Press are about journalism, they obtained what happened inside the pay to play briefing publicized only to those paying dues to the UN Censorship Alliance. Here's Inner City Press and FUNCA, even with this:

Najib Ghadbian: Thank you so much for the Press Association for hosting us. It was a great opportunity for the Syrian delegation to speak to the Security Council (SC) today, and to bring to them the suffering of the Syrian people. That was the first concern. We ask the international community represented by the SC to take up its responsibility toward the Syrian people, and specifically we ask three specific points. The first of which, to find mechanism to force the Syrian regime to accept the Geneva communique, and to make that commitment clear.

A regime that continue to kill civilians, destroy cities, use heavy weaponry, including weapons of mass destruction, does not seem to be in fact committed to not only the spirit but the letter of the Geneva communique. The second demand was in fact ask the SC to help us find access for humanitarian assistance. Most of the work of the UN agencies is done through the Syrian regime, and we are concerned that there should be more ways, cross-border maybe, assistance to reach those in the liberated areas. We stressed this question so much to highlight the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. Even by the UN figure we have almost 7 million Syrians who are either refugees or displaced in Syria, in addition to those of course the fallen heroes, those who have lost their lives, over 100,000 according to the UN SG yesterday.

And the third point was, we ask the SC to refer the regime to the ICC. That was a specific demand, in fact, we put before the SC.

The last point, as far as Geneva is concerned, we were very clear that we have supported all international and regional initiatives to find a political solution for the Syrian crisis, and for the specific point of Geneva. We said we are in fact committed to negotiating a negotiated settlement that would implement Geneva I, that would create a transitional government with full executive authorities. That includes the security and military areas, which in our understanding does not leave room for Assad in the future of Syria.

The last point was in fact, mentioned in the - can I see that - again to appeal to the international community to do something about those areas under siege. As we speak, the regime continues to bombard and attack civilians in places like Homs, like the suburbs of Damascus, (inaudible) everywhere.

And again, one last point is made related to Russia, which is a member of this council. We ask them to stop providing the political and the military support for this criminal regime to continue its crimes against the Syrian people. That's a summary of the statement, thank you.

Q: The Russian ambassador indicated that what you were actually proposing before a Geneva conference were in effect preconditions and that one of the problems in getting the conference off the ground were divisions within the opposition. A third point is that I believe your predecessor said that the coalition would not go to Geneva until the military imbalance had been rectified. Could you address this whole issue of preconditions?

Ahmad al-Jarba: For sure that from our understanding to Geneva that it's going to be the transitional government with full power, executive transitional government with full power. This is not precondition for Geneva or any new conditions. It was Geneva I. It is what we understood from Geneva I and what all the countries understood also. And we don't think that any full power government will not control the intelligence and army's forces. That's what we told the member of the national council now and that's how we see Geneva, and now we have some communication with other friends in the international community to explain to them how we think Geneva is. And about the opposition and who will represent the opposition in Geneva in this case, we think that the condition after the new extend was that there was a new 15 members that represent the Free Syrian Army and the new 14 members inside the coalition that represent the revolutionary forces on the ground, and there is 25 members from the democratic forces. We think now that the coalition is representing all the Syrian revolution and all the forces inside - the political and armed forces. But the way maybe how in Moscow they think maybe any diversity will be separated and the people they should be all united like in Russia.

Q: The Russians and the Iranians, Hezbollah, even from Iraq the regime is getting arms. One of the reasons you're here is to ask for arms for the Free Syrian Army and give guarantees that they won't fall into the hands of extremists. What assurances did you give? What promises did you get about arming the Free Syrian Army?

The question was: arming the opposition and guarantees that it would not fall into the wrong hands.

Mr. al-Jarba spoke about the coalition's effort to in fact lobby for support and mentioned a definite visit that the President and his delegation undertook to friendly countries to in fact provide the xx army with the needed support in the military arena. As far as guarantees; this is one of the issues that the FSA army, specifically the SMC, the Supreme Military Command, has been working very hard to ensure it would not happen. Mr. al-Jarba stated clearly that some of those extremists, in fact all of those extremists, do not recognize the SMC. So how can the SMC provide any kind of support to those entities that consider sometimes the SMC not only as a rival but also as an enemy? The SMC is the most concerned, in fact, that these weapons will not go into the wrong hands.

From a serious point of view, both the SMC and the Coalition are concerned about the rise of radicalism and extremism and they consider that it's a serious threat, they take it very seriously, and they don't want to make the situation any worse.

Q: How can you agree to go to peace talks without changing the balance of power on the ground? I understand the difference between the political and the armed wings, but how important is it for the balance of power to go into the hands of the rebels. And, can you explain whether there is anyone inside the Assad government who you would be willing to go into a transitional government with?

(Person A)

The problem is today that the regime is targeting only the areas under the control of the FSA. The xx regime of all the areas under control of xx and xx and extremist groups because we think that he's only fighting us. There is some kind of agreement, we don't know how, between the regime and the extremist groups on the ground. They are fighting us, and the regime is fighting us also, in the xx area. That makes the extremist group stronger and stronger everyday because they have their own money sources and their own weapon sources. We have nothing. We have only the international community help and the Arabic country help. If they don't help us well by the proper weapons that we need to help us organize ourselves better and to make ourselves stronger, the situation in Syria will be stronger and very dangerous in all the areas.

Najib Ghadbian: I think the designation of who is acceptable from the other side is very clear: those who have not committed crimes against humanity against the Syrian people.

Q: Is there anyone left?

(not sure: person A)

Actually, there is a driver.

Najib Ghadbian: We would actually like to talk to the Human Rights Council on this. Even the Russians, I think, if they could identify those members. But you're right. The longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult it's going to be to find those. But, in the end I think there are some mid-level officers who are not as implicated in this as the top layers, let's call it the criminal layers, even by the international community, the human rights council.

Q: View of the situation on the battlefield? There is a perception the tide has turned and Assad is slowly winning.

Ahmad al-Jarba: This situation has only been for three months until now. After Assad involved the revolutionary guards and Hezbollah and some extremist gangs from Iraq and came with weapons and fully armed. In the past, we were only as revolutionists in the FSA on the ground facing the regime. Now the game has changed after these elements joined the story.

There is a new strategy now in the FSA command and we think that within one month you will see a lot of changes on the ground.

Q: Back to the meeting yesterday with the American delegation: what did you say to SoS Kerry, and did anything he say offer any encouragement?

Burhan Ghalioun: We think that our realign with Washington and the American administration is old and unique because they support the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution. Sec Kerry was very clear that America will stand behind the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution and they will not allow the regime to win in this fight with the Syrian people

But in the same time, it was clear that the American administration was supporting the Geneva conference. We made it very clear to the secretary that we accept Geneva. The Syrian Opposition and the Syrian Coalition on the ground have accepted all the resolutions in the international community including Geneva 2.

But, to get what the Syrian people want, not to go to Geneva to make a settlement with this regime. We told the Americans clearly that we don't want any chairs, or ministry or anything. We don't want anything. We want our people to vote to live democracy dream and to win this freedom battle. We told him,after the announcement of Geneva 2 the regime began to use maximum power, the maximum power, in all deliberated areas by all the weapons.

The open sources and the founts from Russia and and getting the militia from Iraq and Iran and the Revolutionary Guard inside Syria, all of this made very clear that the regime doesn't care about any political solution.

He wants to come to Geneva after he wins the battle with the Syrian people, just to say he won the battle.

So that's what we told Secretary Kerry, that if he want really Geneva to have a meaning, you should push on the Russian, on Bashar Al Assad the regime at least to stop using ballistics missiles and chemical weapons against his own people just at least to make Geneva have a meaning.

So stopping using the chemical weapon and ballistics weapon and all the heavy-- does not mean to stop the war because you know that Bashar Al Assad, he will not a cease fire, he want to continue his fighting, but at least to make the people inside Syria to feel a little bit comfort that there is something happening on the ground.

And lifting the siege from the cities under the siege since 2 years now and stopping all the aids and all the foods from the people…

Allowing the aids and the humanity aids to go inside all the cities under the siege and the liberated area and all the areas in Syria who needs these aids

And we will need a clear statement from the regime that he said that the opposition and the revolutionary forces on the ground and the revolutionists (?) they are not terrorists, and we are in the end of this delegation, end of this conference of Geneva and end of this process there will be transitional government without Bashar Al Assad.

Q: When you met with Kerry, you were asking for more arms. Don't you think more arms in the theater will kill more civilians? If you're calling for ICC to look into regime, what about also reported massacres committed by opposition?

Ahmad al-Jarba: For the first part of the question, when we asking about weapons, when we asking about giving weapons for the Free Syrian Army, we need these weapons to defend our people, to defend the liberated area, because the regime is using air jets, SCUD ballistics missiles, the tanks, so the weapons that we're asking about is the anti-air jets and anti-tanks to defend our people and to defend our cities, defend the civilians.

Najib Ghadbian: As far as the ICC, of course when we called for referring the regime to the ICC, we are accepting any investigation of those who committed crimes against humanity from any source, and I think that's the difference between us and the other side. We condemn any violations of international humanitarian laws, and we are going to be committed to that in order to be credible. That I think is the key difference between us, again, and the other side.

Q: Do you feel you're any closer after these meetings to Geneva 2? What are the obstacles?

Burhan Ghalioun: We believe that this meeting gave a momentum to Geneva again.

And we are very happy to hear that our allies are in fact committed -- that they are committed for in fact supporting us.

We see the obstacles is the regime's commitment, in fact, to Geneva 1, so if they're willing to implement Geneva 1 literally, there is a prospect for a negotiation.

Q: Russia says government is ready to go to Geneva and the problem lies with opposition. Are you ready? What was the response of Sec Kerry to your request for weapons quickly?

Ahmad al-Jarba: The first question about Russia when they said the regime is ready to go to Geneva, so the regime made a lot of statements that he's saying there is no transitional government with full executive authority and even we have some information that even the Russians, they are involved in this to keep the military and intelligence outside of any negotiations and as I mentioned it was from the body of the Geneva 1 with the government with full authority when they cleared these points and they make this commitment we are ready to go to Geneva.

So we think that the American administration actually the way that they look to the Syrian revolution it's better to the Syrian crisis. Maybe they are moving slowly but they still good and as you all know that General Dempsey and so the congress member that they had that they had a new position from the arm-- arm the Free Syrian Army. And we think it's very important point and we talk about all these cases with Secretary Kerry. And we agreed that there's another meetings will be in future to talk about all the cases again.

Q: When we spoke with Amb Churkin he looked like he asked more questions than you asked him or the SC. Did you feel like the Russians were listening to you during the meeting? Also, as you know, by shipping arms and fighter into Syria, both Iran and Iraq are breaching UNSC resolutions. Did you bring this to the table?

Najib Ghadbian: We asked one thing of the Russians: to stop giving weapons to the Syrian regime that continued to be used against Syrian people, we were very clear about that. They have so many questions because they are confused, they continue to be confused, and that's their issue, in fact. That's the issue with the whole Security Council. They're trying to add more ambiguity to already clear Geneva 1, which is all about democratic transition. Once they and the regime are ready to accept that, I think there is a serious prospect about peaceful and political solution.


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