Talks explore prospects for al-Assad exile

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Assad Pictures (Photo credit: upyernoz)”]Assad Pictures[gallery]

03/02/2012– Source
By Caroline Akoum and Sawsan Abo-Husain
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Following news reports that the US, European and
Arab states have begun discussing the possibility of exile for Bashar al-Assad, Syrian National Council [SNC] Executive Committee member, Ahmed
Ramadan, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that such talks are nothing new, but that
the timing of these talks now – with large parts of the country outside of
al-Assad regime control – will ensure they have a greater impact upon the
Syrian regime and Bashar al-Assad personally.Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat that “during the first months of the
revolution, there were at least two countries – one Arab country and one
European country– in talks with al-Assad, and they put forward the idea of
him handing over power and leaving the country. This proposal was previously
discussed by the military leadership affiliated to the regime, most
importantly Maher al-Assad and Assef Shawkat, who opposed this proposal.”
Ramadan added that it is therefore not surprising that similar proposals
should be put forward to the Syrian regime today, particularly as al-Assad
is seeing his forces retreat day after day.
The SNC Executive Committee member also revealed that the SNC has received

information that a major crisis is taking place within the Syrian military
leadership today. This was after problems occurred between Maher al-Assad
and Hafez Makhlouf, who are two of the five senior military officers in
charge of military operations on the ground in Syria.

As for the specifics of the crisis, Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat that this
is over the Syrian army’s recent failures in the field. This resulted in the
reemergence of an alliance between Maher al-Assad and Assef Shawkat, against
Hafez Makhlouf, attempting to lay the blame for these failures on him,
particularly the FSA’s gains and control of Damascus suburbs, and their
capture of 5 Iranians Republican Guard soldiers on Syrian soil.

Ramadan stressed that this division within the military leadership is a
clear indication that the final battle for Damascus and Aleppo is fast

Whilst Ramadan did not rule out the issue of al-Assad stepping down and
being granted asylum abroad being discussed seriously between regional and
international parties and the Syrian regime, he stressed that the SNC is
also in contact with senior figures within the Alawite sect about the future
of the Syrian regime. He added that so far, these talks have been extremely
positive, and the SNC will announce details of this in the near future.

As for whether al-Assad fleeing the country would mean the end of the Syrian
crisis, Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we believe that al-Assad leaving
and handing over power to his deputy – or any other figure – represents a
beginning to finding a solution to the crisis. If al-Assad is thinking of
leaving the country…or accepting a political solution according to the Arab
League proposal, then he will have chosen the path that does not lead to
more violence and bloodshed, and so will therefore avoid the fate of former
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.”

He added “the situation today has changed, and the regime has no options”.

As for Russia’s threatened veto, Ramadan said “we are convinced that the
Russian position is temporary…Russia is negotiating to preserve its own
interests, not to ensure the survival of the al-Assad regime, which it will
abandon at any moment should its interests be served by this.”

In this context, Turkish President Abdullah Gul announced yesterday that
Ankara would consider offering asylum to the al-Assad family. Gul reportedly
told the Turkish Radikal newspaper that “there is nothing like that at the
moment… [but] if such a request is being made to us, of course, we will
study it.”

The Reuters news agency quoted a senior Obama administration official,
speaking on the condition of anonymity, as saying “we understand that some
countries have offered to host him [al-Assad] should he choose to leave
Syria.” However the senior US official said there were several stumbling
blocks to al-Assad being granted asylum, saying “there are significant
questions of accountability for the horrible abuses that have been committed
against the Syrian people” adding “ultimately, these issues will be
deliberated by the Syrian people in concern with regional and international
partners…this is about what Syrians need to end this crisis and begin the
process of rebuilding their country”

Whilst a European official, also speaking to Reuters on the condition of
anonymity, said that EU members were willing to consider the idea of
al-Assad going into exile but that there was "no way we'd have him in our

The Reuters news report claimed that very few countries would be open to
hosting al-Assad, putting forward the United Arab Emirates [UAE] as one of
the few that might be open to the idea. Diplomatic sources informed Asharq
Al-Awsat that Algeria and Sudan are two other possibilities.

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