Syrian NCB Rejects Assad’s Speech, Violence Spreads
The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB), the opposition group reportedly “tolerated” by the government, rejected President Bashar al-Assad‘s recent call for dialogue. The NCB, which the Free Syrian Army accuses of being “not real” and “the other face of the same coin,” has now demanded that any dialogue be preceded by the release of prisoners, a guarantee to ensure humanitarian aid is delivered to areas hit by the violence, and the publication of a statement on the fate of missing Syrians. Hassan Abdel Azim, leader of the NCB, stressed that he wouldn’t participate in direct negotiations or dialogue with the regime, but would only participate within a framework headed by joint U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
The NCB joins voices from around the world in rejecting Assad’s speech, which dismissed the armed opposition as “murderous criminals,” ignored international demands for him to step down, and pledged to continue fighting as long as there are “terrorists” left in Syria. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded by saying Assad’s speech was ”yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition.” George Sabra, vice president of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces stated, “There can be no solution to the conflict in Syria until he is pushed out with his team.”
Violence continued throughout the country following the speech. Reuters reported that fighting erupted near the road to the international airport hours after the speech ended, and that on Monday “the towns of Taybet Imam and Halfaya were bombarded with aerial strikes and artillery.” A recent UN report found that 60,000 Syrians have died in the fighting so far, a number denied by the Syrian government which claims the figure is based on invalid information.