By Arab News
By Abdelelah Alkhatib, Amr Moussa, Mohammad Al-Sabah and Turki Al Faisal*
Four years ago, the Syrian people burst into the streets in a courageous quest for a future without tyranny, corruption or repression. Sadly, their quest led them into an infernal existence. The civil war brought on them by Syrian regime has slaughtered over 300,000 people and displaced more than ten million, or half the population.
The result has been the disintegration of society, the destruction of cities and towns, and the collapse of the economy. A once peaceful land is now a breeding ground for terrorists of myriad affiliations. And the state of Syria is but a shadow of the once thriving society that survived in vibrant and diverse harmony for centuries.
This tragic situation would not have happened had the Syrian regime acted wisely, responsibly, and realistically. It did not. The misery and decimation could also have been avoided had the international community fulfilled its duty and obligations to safeguard international peace and security. It did not. The Arab League, the international powers, the Syrian government — all have failed in their efforts to salvage the national unity of Syria by replacing the bloodshed and devastation with peace and security.
Yet everyone realizes that the status quo is untenable. Unless the world deals courageously with Syria, the atrocity within its borders will continue. Further, we will never defeat Daesh the Nusra Front and their likes as long as there is fertile soil from which they can resurrect and mutate into far more lethal breeds. Solving Syria is not only a humanitarian issue; it is directly related to a victory over terror.
The only way to solve Syria is to allow the Syrian people to decide their future. They must be given a voice and a venue away from the regime that has ravaged them. They must be offered deliberative immunity from the terror groups that have hijacked their aspirations. They must also be allowed to chart their future free from regional and international interference.
Fortunately, the Syrian nation is deeply rooted in history, and it has long been a pioneering participant in world civilization. In fact, there is an invaluable example cherished by the Syrians as a shining landmark of their political experience: the Syrian National Congress of 1919-1920, held after the liberation of Syria during World War I. Despite the fact that French occupation kept their aspirations from materializing, this convention remains a model for building a promising future for Syria.
Inspired by this history and hopeful for tomorrow, the authors of this article propose the convening of a second Syrian National Congress. It will be open to representatives of all Syrian political and social forces. If we can bring civil society organizations together with representatives of cities, towns, villages and tribes — both those who fight for and against the regime — we will create a formidable vehicle for weaving a harmonious and solid accord on a political system and constitution that can help the Syrian people save their society and realize their quest.
This National Congress should be based on and abide by the following principles:
- Since supporters and opponents of the regime agree that the Syrian people have the right to self-determination, all parties should be morally and legally bound to entrust their national destiny to the Syrian people by granting them the freedom to choose their representatives to the National Congress.
- In consultation with the Arab League, the Secretary General of the United Nations should gather all representatives of the Syrian people and convene such a National Congress. This will also entail the Security Council of the United Nations imposing, under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations, a cease-fire between the regime and opposition forces for six months in order that the Syrian people may choose their representatives.
- An independent international commission should be established for drawing up all necessary procedures whereby this National Congress may fully represent the Syrian people.
- This National Congress should meet in a neutral location for three months and none but the representatives should administer, set the agenda for or intervene in the proceedings or resolutions.
- Those who serve in the National Congress, as well as the international community, should show their support for the Syrian people by abiding by its outcomes, by pledging to provide all required assistance for rebuilding Syria, and by doing whatever is in their power to help the Syrian people heal their wounds and resume their participation with the global community.
- The Security Council should invoke Chapter 7 of the United Nations’ Charter to impose the National Congress’s implementations through agreed-upon means of compliance and to penalize the parties that do not abide by the results.
The Syrian regime has claimed that it supports such a convention, but only after it has vanquished terrorism. Yet this is putting the cart before the horse. If the regime truly wishes to benefit the Syrian people, it must support the proposal of convening a Syrian National Congress to rescue the country and its people from further disaster. We must NOT allow Daesh, the Nusra Front and other terrorist organizations to hold the future of Syria hostage.
The ongoing slaughter in Syria, the destruction of a once great civilization, and the spilling of desperate refugees into neighboring nations are a stain of disgrace on the conscience of all humanity. Allowing this state of affairs to continue deeply threatens the Middle East region and the wider global environment. We therefore implore The United Nations and its envoy, Stefan di Mistura, to dedicate their efforts to the realization of a second Syrian National Congress. It is the only way to save Syria.
*Abdelelah Alkhatib (former foreign minister of Jordan), Amr Moussa (former secretary-general of the Arab League), Mohammad Al-Sabah (former deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Kuwait), and Turki Al Faisal (former general intelligence director of Saudi Arabia).