Syrian journalist Wael Sawah believes a political solution to the conflict there is still possible. However that would require all sides involved to agree on new steps. If not the country will slide into civil war.
DW: The Syrian opposition has set aside its differences and formed a broad coalition. What do you make of the move?
Wael Sawah: It's a step in the right direction in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis. However if the move is not backed up by Western and Arab support it will remain just a gesture. It will also mean nothing if the new coalition fails to gain control of the various groups operating within Syria.
The new interim leader, Maath al-Khatib, is a shrewd man and has the respect of the various ethnic and religious movements, so he's the best-qualified person for the job. He's also got Riad Seif's backing, a very prominent anti-Assad activist.
The opposition may have united, but the killing goes on in Syria. How realistic are the chances of ending the bloodshed?
There is one last chance to end the violence. However that is dependant on the entire Syrian opposition agreeing to a plan. In addition the international community, especially the West, would need to move away from a diplomatic to a political process. Instead of relying on diplomatic channels, the West needs to find other ways of putting pressure on the regime. That also applies to the opposition. As a united group it can bring more pressure to bear on the leadership to stop the killing of civilians. If it fails, the country will slide into civil war.
Do you think the international community can agree on a common approach?
Russia is the biggest obstacle to achieving that. Iran is becoming weaker and weaker. China could change its position provided Russia does so first, but I doubt that will happen. That's why the West needs to do all it can to persuade Russia that it is also in Moscow's interest to find a political solution that will put an end to the bloodshed and that can pave the way for a democratic transition. If the West fails to achieve that, it would have to consider taking unilateral steps.
What do you mean by unilateral steps?
The West should then consider using all possible options to make it clear to the Syrian regime that there is little chance that the situation will remain the way it is now.
How is the Syrian population coping with the conflict?
The entire population is suffering; every region, every religious and ethnic group is caught up in the conflict. The regime is not prepared to listen to what the majority of the Syrians want, namely change. At the same time the opposition has to convince the various Syrian groups that they will be safe once there is democratic change in the country.
Foreign extremists and militants have joined the fighting in Syria, how do you see their role?
Unfortunately, Syria has become a hub for competing regional actors and those militants are fighting there by proxy. They have their own agenda and it's completely different from what Syrians want. They want democracy, dignity, equality and political reform. If we don't end the violence now, it will steadily become worse.
Wael Sawah is a journalist and founder of the Syrian League for Citizenship. The interview was conducted on the sidelines of the conference "Democracy and Security in the Middle East" hosted by the Heinrich-Böll Foundation in Berlin.