A public statement of the Initiative “Peace in Syria”

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Signatories:

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Price Laureate, Argentina

Raúl Vera, Catholic bishop, Mexico

Manolis Glezos, Resistance fighter against Nazi occupation, Greece

Hans von Sponeck, retired UN diplomat, university professor, Germany

Walden Bello, MP Akbayan, professor for sociology, Philippines

Norman Paech, Professor for Int'l Law University Hamburg, MP for the "Linke", Germany

Annette Groth, MP for the "Linke", Germany

Odysseas Voudouris, MP, Greece

Vicent Garcés, Diputado Europeo, Spain

Andrej Hunko, MP for the "Linke", member of PACE, Aachen, Germany

Jesus Iglesias Fernández, senator, Spain

Manuel Garcia Fonseca, former MP and speaker CSCA (Committee for the Arab Cause), Spain

Gaspar Llamazares Trigo, MP, Spain

Lyssaridis Vassos, former President of Parliament, Cyprus

Nikolaos Houndis, member of EU Parliament, Greece

Santiago Alba Rico, writer, Spain / Tunisia

Tariq Ali, writer, Britain

Jan Myrdal, writer, Sweden

Gretta Duisenberg, Free Gaza Movement, Stop the Occupation, Netherlands

Paul Larudee, Free Gaza Movement, Free Palestine Movement, Global March to Jerusalem, USA

Pedro Rojo, president of Foundation Al Fanar, member of CEOSI, Spain

Alejandro Bendana, sociologist, UN-officer for peacemaking, Nicaragua

Francois Houtart, sociologist of religion and co-founder of the World Social Forum, Belgium

Gilberto López y Rivas, social anthropologist, Mexico

Leo Gabriel, social anthropologist, journalist, member of IC of the World Social Forum, Austria

Vangelis Pissias, professor, leading organiser of Gaza Freedom flotilla, Greece

Mireille Fanon Mendès-France, journalist and activist, France

Werner Ruf, retired university professor, Germany

Carlos Varea González, CEOSI, www.iraqsolidaridad.org, Spain

Heike Hänsel, MP “Die Linke”, Germany

Reiner Braun, International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, Germany

FROM TIMES OF WAR TO TIMES OF PEACE IN SYRIA

No idea and no ideal, however heroic it might be, can possibly justify the death of thousands of innocent people. Nothing is important enough to justify the fact that millions are fleeing their homes just because they want to survive. And no war should continue if it results in the destruction of one’s own country.

This is the lesson of nearly every war and this is also the lesson of the war in Syria, which already took the lives of 70,000 Syrians. However, the big question remains: How to stop this vicious circle of violence, which has dominated the country since almost two years? Syria is situated in a multicultural environment; there are many people on both sides of the political spectrum who just want democracy and social justice to be built from the ground in their urban and rural communities. But just this right of self-determination is systematically denied by those who erroneously consider war the only way to achieve their political goals.

Some efforts have been made to break the spiral of violence from the outside, especially by the United Nations, which demanded a cease-fire and negotiations aiming at the eventual formation of a transitional government. Such a transitional government could promote and ensure a political process leading to free elections, in which the real will of the Syrian people would find expression. So far those efforts have not been very successful, which is to a large extent due to the fact that they are essentially relying on the geostrategic balances and imbalances of the so-called global powers as well as the regional states which are stakeholders in the conflict.

We, a movement of peace activists, intellectuals and members of the international civil society, have been following a different logic: instead of waiting for the big and small powers of the region and of the world to find an equilibrium which enables them to generate a cease-fire from the outside, we established contacts with those Syrian political forces that are willing to engage in a POLITICAL DIALOGUE under conditions which eventually could lead to a cease-fire and a political transition acceptable to all people who truly want peace in Syria and in the whole area. We also established contacts with members of the Syrian civil society and people on the ground.

In our pursuit of this common goal we wish to show, first of all, our solidarity with the victims of the war. Therefore we have constituted a delegation of renowned members of the international civil society, elected parliamentarians and peace activists from all over the world to go to Damascus with a number of concrete proposals which aim at protecting and supporting the civilian population in their daily struggle for survival:

  • The creation of demilitarized zones with access for humanitarian organisations,

  • The release of political prisoners and

  • The establishment of truces on the local and regional levels.

All this in order to create the conditions for a genuine cease-fire and political negotiations regarding the transitional period.

Not very long ago these goals seemed to be completely utopian, since neither side inside Syria displayed any serious willingness to start political negotiations. Since about one month this situation suddenly started to change: first, a high-ranking personality of the regime broke the silence of more than one year, declaring overtly that a military victory is impossible to achieve and that the government should seek a political solution. And now even Washington seems to look for possibilities of a negotiated settlement.

On the other side, the Co-ordinator of the Syrian National Coalition declared all of a sudden that he was ready to start a dialogue even with the Assad regime under the condition that it would release the prisoners it has been keeping in jail since the outbreak of the conflict, whereupon president Assad himself said he was ready for a “dialogue without preconditions.” Other opposition personalities as well seem to be ready to contribute to a dialogue process.

However, also in this case historical experience has proved that a negotiation process from above, imposed from the outside, has often been very long-winded, hampered by many ups and downs, essentially when:

  • The actors involved give priority to the geopolitical or local balance of power interests and neglect the people’s real need of peace and a just political solution.

  • The local civil society and the international civil society do not participate actively and effectively in those negotiations, but rather create their own sphere of political rationality, defending their own objectives and visions.

Meanwhile, we should realize that the war is going on and is even intensifying at a horrible pace. Not a single day passes without 150 to 300 persons being killed, amongst them many children. More than half a million are living in inhuman conditions in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and approximately 1,5 Million are desperately seeking refuge inside the country.

This is also the main reason why the undersigned members of the international civil society believe that these efforts from above should be accompanied by a solid, coherent, representative and sincere PEACE-MAKING PROCESS FROM BELOW in order to arrive at a negotiated settlement for a democratic transition. We, therefore, continue our efforts, preparing -as a first step - our visit to Damascus in the near future in order to meet civil society representatives of all sides, to express our support and solidarity to all those who strive with political means, to present to them our main ideas and to exchange our thoughts. Last but not least, to offer our services:

  • For a transition towards democracy

  • Against the sectarian civil war

  • For preserving Syria`s national sovereignty and for opposing foreign military intervention

We wish to demonstrate that the times of war could come to an end, and that there is still some hope for the surviving victims who already have been waiting too long for this moment to come.


February 18th, 2013