"Those who say that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved through a military victory are either totally unaware of the way things work on the ground or are simply working deliberately to weaken Syria by dragging it into civil war," Syrian opposition figure Haytham Mannaa asserted.
President of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, Mannaa spoke to Ahram Online on Sunday before departing Cairo following a two-day visit in which he met with UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Librahimi, foreign ministry officials and Cairo-based Syrian opposition figures.
The objective of the talks, according to Mannaa, was to "reintroduce wisdom into the Syria debate."
Halt arms to rebels
Wisdom, the Syrian opposition figure said, entails the elimination of calls for the provision of armaments to the Syrian opposition.
"What do they think will happen if they give the Syrian opposition, or at least some factions of the opposition, more arms?" Mannaa asked. "Do they think that the allies of the Syrian regime, namely Iran and Russia, would sit and watch, or do they think that they too would send the regime more arms?"
He added: "And where do they think this would lead? How much more bloodshed do they want to see in Syria?"
Mannaa said he was "very concerned" over the decision taken at the last Arab League Summit, which convened late last month in Doha, to step up armaments to the Syria opposition.
"This decision means extended war and a new influx of foreign fighters into Syria, to the chagrin of Syrians who feel their country has become a playground for Jihadists – who may or may not leave once the crisis is over," he said.
"We now have ample arms across Syria and there are thousands of Jihadists – anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 – and none of this has managed to end the crisis," he added. "This has only served to make the regime more aggressive and there will be more violence, more displacement and more refugees."
Manna went on: "Some six million Syrians have already been forced to flee their homes due to two years of violence. How many more must be turned into refugees before we decide to pursue a negotiated settlement – which represents the only way out of the bloodbath in which Syria is drowning."
The Paris-based opposition figure said he has been trying hard to convey this message, not only in the French capital – which takes a keen interest in developments in Syria – but also in other regional and world capitals.
Face-saving exit for Assad
Before coming to Cairo, Mannaa visited eight other international capitals, including Moscow and Washington, where he stressed the need for a consensual agreement that might secure a face-saving exit for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
"We can keep talking about toppling Assad as much as we want, but the fact is that there are key regional and world powers – specifically Iran and Russia – that will not let him fall simply because they have an interest in keeping him where he is," Manna argued.
A negotiated settlement would not only spare the country "the possibility of a protracted war," Mannaa contends, but would also maintain the basis of state institutions, which will be destroyed if the current conflict continues much longer.
In any event, Mannaa says that more and more Syrians are abandoning calls for "regime change" and "democaratisaiton." It is not that uncommon, he said, to hear Syrians say that they would rather live under Assad than see more people killed or displaced.
Librahimi, whose main task is to promote a negotiated settlement, promised Mannaa that he would step up consultations in hopes of containing the bloodshed.
"It's not an easy mission, but it's not impossible; and if left unaccomplished, Syria will turn into another Somalia," Mannaa warned. "Unfortunately, it's already happening as we see different factions taking control of different parts of the country."