President Al-Assad of Syria has recently allowed meetings with opposition members, aimed at creating a ‘national dialogue’.
Nearly 200 dissident opposition members have held their own meetings in Damascus, calling for a peaceful transition to democracy and an end to the rule of Al-Assad and have now been invited to enter discussions with the government; many view this as a great step forward.
The Guardian however, has been critical, suggesting that this may be nothing more than a ‘PR exercise’. The meetings have not included any of Syria’s major opposition parties or those affiliated with them and this casts doubt on whether or not meaningful reform can emerge out of this.
With protests occurring daily, not only in Damascus but throughout Syria, Ammar Abdulhamid, an exiled dissident, suggests that there is still a strong possibility of revolution.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many opposition parties have declared themselves opposed to the talks; including the main opposition party in Syria, the Damascus Declaration coalition.
The White House has called the talks worthwhile but says it will continue to put pressure on the Syrian government to end the violence towards civilians, which likewise has been condemned by the European Union.
July 10th has now been set as the date on which Mr Al-Assad and his government will hold their ‘National Dialogue Conference’; a consultative meeting of approximately 100, again unaffiliated, intellectual and political figures, who will discuss various constitutional amendments.
It is the government’s hope that these meetings will stave off revolution and secure the Ba'ath regime. Whether or not these meetings will placate the Syrian protestors, or whether this is simply too little too late, remains to be seen.
What is clear is that this is not a true ‘opposition meeting’, but merely meetings with groups of citizens that include a few opposition members.