Syrian opposition leader: UN ‘freeze’ must be tied to broad peace process

The Wall Street Journal reports: Syria’s opposition chief, who was in Brussels this week to meet with European Union foreign ministers, is warning Western leaders against embracing a possible United Nations “freeze” on Syrian fighting unless it’s tied to a broader peace process.

Hadi al-Bahra, president of the Syrian National Coalition, said a plan being floated by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura could be a breakthrough. But if it’s not part of a political resolution, Mr. Bahra said, it will simply give the regime of President Bashar al-Assad time to regroup.

“I’m seeing some fatigue with a few countries who feel a need just to support any proposal submitted, whether it’s part of a political solution or not, just for the sole reason that there is nothing available except this,” Mr. Bahra said in an interview.

Mr. de Mistura has been discussing a plan to freeze the fighting around the embattled city of Aleppo, meaning both sides would stay where they are and ratchet down the violence to zero. The goal would then be to spread the freeze to other areas.

European Union foreign ministers, meeting here Monday, largely embraced the idea as a rare glimmer of hope in a conflict that has killed some 200,000 people. “There is a good chance … that he can succeed in going step-by-step to impose a freeze in Aleppo,” Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters. “That would be perhaps the beginning of a more positive evolution… In any case, we don’t have a lot of options.”

But Mr. Bahra’s concerns were echoed privately by some countries, including Britain and France. Any plan must ensure that Mr. Assad doesn’t redeploy his troops and attack elsewhere, he said, and it must guarantee serious consequences if either side violates the deal. [Continue reading…]

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