′We cannot continue to stand idle′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 29.05.2012
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'We cannot continue to stand idle'

As the number of countries to expel Syrian ambassadors grows following Friday's massacre in Houla, Syrian opposition members meeting in Bulgaria called on the UN Security Council to protect civilians.

Representatives of the Syrian opposition adopted a declaration which calls on the UN Security Council to protect civilians and put an end to the atrocities of the Assad regime. This historic meeting took place in Bulgaria, near Sofia.

DW spoke to the host of the meeting, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Mladenov, what was the result of this meeting?

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov

Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov

Nikolai Mladenov: The most important result was a significant step towards a consolidation of the opposition in Syria around the common vision for the future of the country that is based on democratic values and the understanding that all ethnic and religious groups need to be represented in the future in the government of Syria, that they have the right to be protected.

Which political parties were involved?

The Syrian National Council - which is the umbrella organization of the Syrian opposition - was joined by representatives of the Kurdish National Council, in a very extensive meeting to discuss the specific challenges that the Kurdish population of Syria sees. I wish to remind everyone that under the current regime the Kurds have been deprived of their basic rights for many years now, and although Mr. Assad tried to take some tentative last-minute efforts, the Kurdish people of Syria fully support the revolution of the Syrian people and the demands for a free government. And the third group that took part was the National Block which includes representatives of different tribes in Syria and really takes the pulse of the situation on the ground. So this was quite an historic opportunity for all of them to sit down and agree upon the principles on which they will coordinate their activities and work together towards the establishment of a new free and democratic state.

What does the Syrian opposition plan to do next - what can be done now that the Annan Plan has failed?

Kofi Annan (l) speaking with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Kofi Annan (l) speaking with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

I think it is too early to say that the Annan Plan has failed. Like many others, I hope to see the reports of Mr. Annan in the next few days from his last meetings in Damascus. The situation that we have after the horrific massacre in Houla a couple of days ago is quite different. I think the international condemnation of the regime is unequivocal. We have seen that even countries that were more hesitant have begun to shift their position. It is important for the opposition to build on this unity which they have now created and consolidate their vision for the future of the country and it is important for us in the international community to continue pressuring the Syrian regime to abide by the full implementation of the Annan Plan: not just the ceasefire, but all points that were put in the plan must be fully implemented, including a political process. I think that one year after the events in Syria began unfolding, there are more people who have lost their lives to the brutality of the regime than during the events in Libya. And we cannot continue to stand idle and see these massacres continue. All those who have been involved must understand that they will be prosecuted and judged for their deeds.

Why did this meeting take place in Bulgaria? Does your country have a special role in relations with Syria?

It has a strong connection to the people in Syria. Bulgarians and Syrians have lived and studied together for many years, many of them studied in each other's countries, we have a long history of cooperation. We also want to provide not just support to those who want to build a new free and democratic Syria, but also to share the experience which we have from our own transition, the challenges that we have faced here, so that we can help our friends move forward. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has set up a special initiative called the Sofia Platform, which bridges Europe and the Middle East particularly on issues related to transition. We work very closely with Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and with a number of other countries that have embarked on the road to democratization. And I hope that very soon the people of Syria will be able to vote in a free and fair manner, to elect their own government and to decide the fate of their own country, rather than be governed by a dictator.

Interview: Alexander Andreev / als
Editor: Neil King

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