World Bulletin / News Desk
The Middle East correspondent of the British newspaper The Independent, Robert Fisk, said that six weeks ago, a two-man delegation arrived in secret in Damascus: civilians from Aleppo who represented elements of the Free Syrian Army.
In his article titled "A Syrian solution to civil conflict? The Free Syrian Army is holding talks with Assad's senior staff", Fisk said: "They came under a guarantee of safety, and met, so I am told, a senior official on the staff of President Bashar al-Assad. And they carried with them an extraordinary initiative – that there might be talks between the government and FSA officers who “believed in a Syrian solution” to the war.
According to Fisk, the delegation made four points: that there must be an “internal Syrian dialogue”; that private and public properties must be maintained; that there must be an end to – and condemnation of – civil, sectarian, ethnic strife; and that all must work for a democratic Syria where the supremacy of law would be dominant. There was no demand – at least at this stage – for Assad’s departure.
The reply apparently came promptly. There should indeed be 'a dialogue within the Syrian homeland'; no preconditions for the dialogue; and a presidential guarantee of safety for any FSA men participating. And now, it seems, another remarkable development is under way: in seven rebel-held areas of Aleppo, most of them under the control of the FSA, civil employees can return to work in their offices, and government institutions and schools can reopen."
Some members of the FSA have formed what they call the “National Union for Saving Syria”, although members of the political opposition in areas outside government control disrupted meetings by condemning the government army and, according to those involved in the “Union”, making sectarian comments and condemning Shiites and Iran. Last week there were several defections of FSA units to the al-Qa’ida-linked al-Nusra Front, which has complicated matters still further. If the FSA is prepared to talk to the regime, how many are now left to take part in future agreements between the two sides?
These developments come as Iran, the number one ally of the Assad regime, has entered into peace talks with the US, who has been pushing for the Assad regime to step down and even threatening military strikes against regime targets. The election of the new Iranian president has opened the doors of dialogue between Iran and the West, which makes many believe that Assad's days are now numbered. Moreover, recent UN resolution regarding the handover of the regime's chemical weapons has received support from Russia, another key Assad ally. This has raised hopes for the possibility of a swift and peaceful power transition in Syria which could see a compromise between the FSA and pro-regime elements.