Ahmad Asi al-Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). Photo: Rudaw
By Dilxwaz Bahlawi
Ahmad Asi al-Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) who was in Erbil last week to meet with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, said that: “Neither during the transition nor after, there is a place for the Assad regime. That is our unchanging position.”
Asked about the status of Kurds in Syria and whether that will be discussed at the Geneva 2 conference next month, he promised: “Every subject will be open to discussion at the meeting. No dossier will be ignored.”
Al-Jabra also said that the SNC does not back the self-declared interim government in Syrian Kurdistan because, “We have an interim government already to govern the liberated areas.” Here is his complete interview with Rudaw:
Rudaw: What were the main topics of your meeting with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani this week?
Neither during the transition nor after, there is a place for the Assad regime. That is our unchanging position.
Ahmad Asi al-Jarba: We visited Erbil on an invitation from President Barzani. Given the complex situation of Syria today, it is quite natural to meet with our brothers in Erbil and with President Barzani in particular. What is happening in Syria is also related to Iraq. There is a common view between us regarding the political, civil and all other topics in Syria. I made a thorough analysis of the situation in Syria to him (Barzani) and I listened to what he had to say. I believe that, like all our meetings with President Barzani, it was a very positive and honest meeting. Barzani is undoubtedly a great supporter of the Syrian people and their revolution and that is nothing new. From the beginning of the revolution he has made his position clear. Apart from that, a huge number of Syrian refugees are now in the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish government is assisting them. We thanked him for that, and we visited some of the camps while in Kurdistan.
Rudaw: Has the Syrian National Coalition decided to attend the Geneva 2 meeting next month? And how do you see the Kurdish participation there? Will the Kurdish question be discussed at the meeting?
Ahmad Asi al-Jarba: We intend to attend Geneva 2, but we also insist that we do not go there just for the sake of participation, but to make sure the meeting succeeds. Success means the freedom of Syria. The meeting shouldn’t be a propaganda tool or appearance in the media. It is a last chance and shouldn’t be missed. In order for Geneva 2 to succeed, Geneva 1 has to be its constitution. I must also say that, neither during the transition nor after, there is a place for the Assad regime. That is our unchanging position. Regarding the participation of the Kurdish brothers, the entire meeting will be held between two main delegations: The regime delegation and the SNC. The Kurdish National Council (KNC) is already part of the SNC and they will be present at Geneva 2. Every subject will be open to discussion at the meeting. No dossier will be ignored.
Rudaw: As we speak, Syrian Kurdish groups, especially the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and KNC, are holding their own talks. Will the SNC try to meet with the PYD, and what is your take on the PYD?
We do not support autonomous administrations because, as the National Coalition, we have an interim government already to govern the liberated areas.
Ahmad Asi al-Jarba: My visit to Erbil was only to see President Barzani. Nothing else was on my agenda. But we are happy about the talks between the PYD and the KNC. We have met with the PYD more than once. I have met with Mr. Salih Muslim. Our meetings are ongoing and wouldn’t conclude overnight. I hope that everything turns out well in the end and that we all share the same clear view towards the regime in Damascus.
Rudaw: What is your honest opinion about the permanent autonomous administration the PYD is working on right now?
Ahmad Asi al-Jarba: We do not support autonomous administrations because, as the National Coalition, we have an interim government already to govern the liberated areas. We even have a Kurd as the minister of finance in that government. There only needs to be that government in all the free areas to help the people. Otherwise, there would be confusion. I believe that dialogue can solve everything. So I hope our interim government reaches those (Kurdish) areas and we all work for it together, otherwise it will fail.
Rudaw: Several days ago the first shipment of UN aid flew out of Erbil airport to Qamishli, and we all know that Qamishli airport is still under regime control. Do you think the aid will reach the people who need it most?
Ahmad Asi al-Jarba: Our view is that the shipment of aid is done under UN supervision, and our people in Syria live in such dire situation that it doesn’t matter who controls the airport. What is important is for the aid to reach the people who are starving and cold in this harsh winter. The UN is doing this work and they should also make sure the assistance reaches the right people. Some people live under regime control, but they are still our people and haven’t come from another planet. We have asked the UN to be present at all times so that there is no corruption in the distribution.
What is important is for the aid to reach the people who are starving and cold in this harsh winter.
Rudaw: You said you visited the refugee camps in Kurdistan and that you had brought with you some aid.
Ahmad Asi al-Jarba: Yes, we have brought aid with us and it will be given to the camps. I also spoke with President Barzani and other Kurdish authorities about opening an office of coordination for the SNC in Erbil to help our displaced people in Kurdistan. In the coming days the office will open and we will soon start assisting our refugees.