FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 26, 2016
Contact: Samia Wishart
SAC, in partnership with CDS, issues a letter to Secretary Kerry Demanding Support of the HNC in Light of Upcoming Geneva Talks
Washington, DC – The Syrian American Council, the largest and oldest grassroots Syrian American organization in the United States, in partnership with the Coalition for a democratic Syria, issued a letter to Secretary John Kerry yesterday on behalf of the Syrian community.
The letter expresses outrage at the stance of the United States toward the Syrian Opposition’s Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC) with regard to the Geneva talks and reassures the United States government that the Syrian American Community stands behind the HNC as the most credible and unified representative body of the Syrian opposition. The letter also demands that the United States take all steps possible to increase the opposition’s leverage and position in the negotiations.
The letter may be found in the text below:
Secretary of State John Kerry
Department of State
January 26, 2016
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We write you as leaders of the Syrian American community to express our deep outrage at the current American stance toward the Higher Negotiations Committee (HNC). The Syrian American community stands behind the HNC. We regard it as a tremendous achievement that all Syrian opposition factions, including all of the top Syrian rebel groups, have been united under one banner in support of a democratic Syria for all Syrians. We urge you not to squander this achievement. We are in full agreement with the HNC and its leader, Prime Minister Dr. Riyad Hijab, that diplomatic talks cannot proceed before the Assad regime allows full humanitarian access, ends its starvation sieges, halts bombardments on civilian areas, and releases political prisoners–steps which have already been mandated in UN Security Council resolutions, but have not been enforced.
We further support Prime Minister Hijab in his demand that the HNC must be the sole representative of the opposition at upcoming talks. The Assad regime and its primary backers, Russia and Iran, must not have a say in who represents the opposition. United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura must not introduce “neutral” participants who serve pro-Assad interests. The International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) must not deviate from the Geneva I Communique goal of a transition in governance.
As American citizens, we call on the United States to take all steps possible to increase the opposition’s leverage and position in the negotiations. The United States has never been a neutral party to this conflict, and it must not become one now. The ISSG includes powerful countries like Iran and Russia who have taken bold steps to increase Assad’s leverage. The United States must match and surpass these efforts in support of the opposition. Syria’s children, the region, and American national security interests depend on it.
Secretary Kerry, you know that Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime have created the most significant obstacles to a settlement. Syrian opposition groups have fought hard against ISIS for two years and are America's best partners against terrorism on the ground. Russia, Iran and Assad might use the rhetoric of anti-terrorism, but, as you are well aware, they largely spare ISIS to focus their attacks on innocent civilians and on the most moderate rebel groups. If the United States does not counter Russian and Iranian aggression in Syria, instability will persist and terrorists will maintain their regional safe haven.
We urge you to avoid taking steps that reward their intransigence, that exclude the legitimate opposition, and that endanger Syrian civilians. The Syrian American community is ready and waiting to support a peace process conducive to a comprehensive and long-lasting political settlement that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people. We look forward to hosting Prime Minister Hijab in the U.S. and helping him to meet with U.S. officials so that differences in position can be narrowed.
Syrian American Council
Coalition for a Democratic Syria
United for a Free Syria
Syrian Emergency Task Force
Syrian Christians for Peace