Members of Syria’s political opposition, contrasting with the armed Syrian rebels, called for a peaceful removal of President Bashar al-Assad at a recent meeting in Damascus, which remains under government control.
The Syrian opposition parties have typically been criticized by the rebels for being too lenient on the Assad regime, which continues to use heavy military force against the rebels in civilian-populated areas despite worldwide condemnation.
A strongly worded statement from the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, made up of the country’s 16 opposition parties, called for "overthrowing the regime with all its symbols," while maintaining a "peaceful struggle to achieve the goals of the revolution," the Associated Press reported.
The group’s plan for a political transition is contingent upon a cease-fire between the Syrian military and rebel forces, though such a plan is not likely to gain substantive support from either side, as the rebels are distrustful of the government’s willingness to honor such an agreement, and the Assad regime has been unwavering in its determination to stay in power.
A previous cease-fire attempt in April proved unsuccessful, with both sides violating the agreement.
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The Assad regime has maintained tight restrictions over any criticism in the areas under its control, which has raised speculation over the regime’s intentions in authorizing NCB meeting.
“It's our right to meet here in the capital to express our views without being subject to dictates and pressures or to be forced to make concessions," NCB head Hassan Abdul-Azim told the AP.
However, the presence of the Iranian and Russian ambassadors at the meeting, given both countries’ consistent support for Assad, suggests that the regime is attempting to promote international calls for a peaceful solution to the conflict and pressure the rebels into laying down arms.
The NCB’s stance maintains a rejection of foreign intervention, a message that is supported by the Assad regime.
While the U.N. General Assembly has condemned Assad's repression, attempts to call for his removal at the Security Council have been blocked by Russia and China.
The U.N. estimates 19,000 people have been killed over the course of the 18-month conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011 in the wave of Arab Spring uprisings.