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Middle East

Syrian regime is buying time, envoy says

The Assad regime may have traveled to the Syria peace conference in Switzerland, but it isn't about to engage in a political solution, says Monzer Makhous, the Syrian National Coalition's ambassador in France.

DW: What are your expectations of the upcoming talks at the Syria peace conference on Friday?

Monzer Makhous: I don't believe a political solution will be agreed upon in Switzerland. The situation in Syria is very complicated. At first, we - the Syrian National Coalition - didn't want to participate in the conference, but then the majority spoke out in favor of taking part. Although we know, and other important political players know, that the Syrian regime will never engage in a political solution, and is merely buying time.

Did the opposition delegation come to Switzerland because it really believes in a solution or because it felt pressured by its backers?

We came to show the United Nations that we are serious about a political solution if the regime is, too. But, once again: We know that's not what they want. The West asked us to participate in the conference as a first step, and that's what we're doing. .

'Opposition fighters not united enough'

If, as you say, a political solution is hard to imagine at the moment - what else could be done to end the war?

We're in a deadlock: Neither the regime nor the opposition fighters clearly have the military upper hand at the moment. We won't be able to end this war in a few weeks or months, it'll be a long drawn-out process. Currently, all I see is that the various opposition fighters aren't united enough in their actions. If they would unite in Syria, they might be able to defeat Assad's army.

You believe theconference stands little chance. What role could the international community play to advance a political solution?

It could arm the fighters with various weapons. So far, it refuses to do so, although direct arms shipments would be very important. Assad's supporters, like Iran and Hezbollah, provide him and his army with all their weapons. A no-fly-zone would help, too. In general, there needs to be more pressure on the regime.

Who could put on this pressure?

The West. We have warned many times that at some point, this war will expand and plunge the region into chaos. The situation in Lebanon is tense, there have recently been more attacks, and there is even more violence and chaos in Iraq. I hope Jordan won't be affected, too. To tell the truth, I believe it's only a matter of time before the situation in the region escalates even further. The West is aware it could be endangered as well – hardly a situation it is looking for. The West once even considered a military option.

Iran's role

You paint a sombre picture of the upcoming talks - shouldn't after all Iran have been invited to influence the Assad government?

Putting pressure on Bashar al-Assad isn't in Iran's interest. Iran is a close ally of the regime in Damascus, Iran sends weapons and fighters and has said it will always be at Assad's side. Iran is one of the warring parties. Iran would never have taken a positive influence on Assad and his followers.

How do you see Syria's future?

It's important that Assad and his followers are n o longer in power. Syria has no future under their rule. The regime has committed so many crimes. They should not think they will rule the Syrian people once again.

Monzer Makhous is a member of the Syrian National Coalition, the main Syrian opposition umbrella group. He was sent to France as the coalition's envoy in November 2012. While Makhous is not a member of the delegation at the Syria peace talks, he traveled to Geneva to observe the negotiations at close range.

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