President of Syrian Interim Government: ‘We will run a safe zone free of ISIS, Nusra and PYD’
Ahmed Touma, President of the Syrian Interim Government, speaking to ARA News in his office in Gaziantep, Turkey.
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ARA News – Exclusive
Gaziantep, Turkey – Ahmed Touma, President of the Interim Government that was formed by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to lead the transitional phase in war-torn Syria, said that the safe zone will be an opportunity for his government to prove its role in “making a real change in Syria”.
Turkey and U.S. agreed on establishing a safe zone in northern Syria to ease refugees’ pressure on neighboring countries, hoping that the project would prevail to other war-torn areas in the country where more than 250,000 people have been killed over the past four years.
In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Touma said that the Interim Government cannot accomplish the aspirations of the suppressed Syrian people without moving from its base in Turkey to the “liberated Syrian territory”.
“We cannot make a real change in Syria if the Interim Government didn’t move to the Syrian territory, supported by a central military force under the umbrella of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and the Defense Ministry of the Interim Government in order to protect areas liberated from the regime,” he said.
“If this is achieved and the Syrian Interim Government was able to enter Syria and operate there, this would represent a great step towards change on several levels. Moving (from Turkey) into Syria would give the Interim Government an opportunity to provide services to the people and to gain more credibility on a local and international level,” Touma said.
“Such a step would also prove the importance of this government as a crucial player in preserving public institutions in Syria and keep its essential entity as a state. On an international level, the issue of maintaining the country’s public institutions is very essential for the post-war era,” President of the Syrian Interim Government told ARA News.
“Since the start of the revolution against his regime, Bashar al-Assad has been trying to give an impression that he’s a protector for Syria’s entity as a state through continuing the payment of his employees in areas under his control, and by providing his supporters with food supplies and services such as electricity and water in those areas. If we would have such an opportunity, we could make a remarkable achievement as Interim Government and as a coalition for the revolutionary forces and the opposition (SNC). We believe it’s possible to accomplish this, especially that the planned safe zone will be completely free of ISIS, Nusra Front and the PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union Party),” he said.
“The Free Syrian Army will protect this zone, and the Syrian Interim Government will provide services to people. In light of these conditions, we’ll be settling on ground and a new era will start to make a real difference in Syria. I think that this will pave the way for a solution for the crisis,” Touma added.
Answering a question by ARA News on whether the success of establishing such a zone would prevail to other areas in Syria, Touma said: “If this experience succeeds, it will be implemented in other areas of the country. All Syrian cities and towns are viable for becoming safe zones, and our priority is the areas that are constantly targeted with strikes by the regime’ air force. If the project of the (45km) safe zone succeeds in the region stretching from Jarablus near the Euphrates to Azaz city (on the Syrian border with Turkey), I believe the next zone will be Aleppo.”
Regarding the elimination of ISIS radical group from the areas intended to be included in the proposed safe zone, President of the Syrian Interim Government said: “We are aware that ISIS won’t accept to evacuate its headquarters, but it will be driven out of the safe zone by force. Warplanes of the U.S.-led international coalition will continue striking the group’s positions until it withdraws its militants completely from areas that will be included in the planned safe zone. This is an absolute scenario.”
No Place for PYD
“As for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), I believe this political party won’t take the risk of entering the safe zone since it’s not allowed to,” he said. “It’s very clear that this zone would be under strict security measures. The establishment of the Syrian safe zone is based on three points: Firstly, it will be completely free of ISIS. Secondly, neither al-Nusra Front nor the PYD-linked forces would be allowed to enter the zone. Furthermore, this zone will be under the complete protection of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).”
Although the PYD is a member of the National Coordination Committee, which constitutes a main opposition body beside the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Touma believes this Kurdish party –which is accused of links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey (PKK)– would form a danger on the safe zone.
“The main issue regarding the position within the safe zone towards the PYD is the Turkish national security, since this zone will be established along the Turkish borderline,” Touma told ARA News. “Turkey is a key player in making the safe zone project possible, and it won’t allow the PKK-affiliated PYD to play any role in this project.”
“We, as SNC and Interim Government, have also rifts with the PYD, and we won’t allow any involvement by this party in the safe zone project,” he said.
“PYD has not taken a clear decision concerning its relation with the Syrian regime, and hasn’t joined the revolution yet,” he added. “I understand the suppression and persecution suffered by Kurdish people over the past fifty years in Syria, and we all recognize this. When we were struggling the tyrannical regime inside Syria, we’ve always fought to accomplish the Kurdish rights. We always aspired for equal rights between Arabs and Kurds, and we rather put the Kurdish rights before those of Arabs.”
“We believe in the equal rights of all Syrian citizens. This is our position on the Kurdish issue in Syria. However, when a party as the PYD tries to impose its demands by force, that’s unacceptable.”
Concluding his interview with ARA News, President of the Syrian Interim Government said: “We openly invite each Syrian party that believes in our national project to unify its efforts with ours. We aspire for a civil state that maintains the principles of equality and pluralism. We are looking forward to unify our efforts with all Syrian groups to fight together and establish the aspired pluralistic Syria that guarantees the right of every social component in expressing itself under the umbrella of peaceful coexistence.”
Interview by: Muhammad Ali
Source: ARA News
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