BEIRUT: A group of Syrian activists and figures launched Thursday the “Patriotic Movement for the Salvation of Syria,” a party they say seeks to expose extremist groups at work in their country and combat and expose foreign meddling.
“We seek to fight all means of violence in Syria and fight all sectarian calls in the region as well as in Syria and stand in the way of all plans aimed at dividing the country,” Nabil Fayyad, an author and political activist, told a news conference at a Beirut hotel.
He said the party, which he described as a “civil, Arab, and modern movement,” seeks to rescue his country from the crisis, which the U.N. said Wednesday has claimed the lives of over 60,000 people.
He added that the nascent movement seeks to repair the image of Sunnis in his country that extremists “have distorted” through violence.
Fayyad also urged that Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt all work together to combat “the plot by Turkey and Qatar,” referring to those countries’ open backing of Syrian rebels against the rule of President Bashar Assad.
Fears of the rise of extremists in Syria have increased recently, particularly after the U.S. designated the radical Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, an important element in the opposition struggle, as a foreign terrorist organization in December.
Last year, Washington claimed that the group was trying to hijack the rebellion on behalf of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Fayyad did not direct any accusations against the Syrian government but said the party opposes a return to the preuprising status quo.
“We oppose a return to a pre-March 15 Syria,” he said.
March 15, 2011, is widely regarded as the beginning of the uprising against Assad who has been in power since 2000.
Syrian MP Omar Oussi, another speaker at the news conference, read the party’s manifesto which slammed what it described as the “Doha opposition.”
“We work to expose the link between Doha’s coalition group and armed groups from Al-Qaeda that are devastating the Syrian people,” said Oussi, the president of the National Initiative for Syrian Kurds.
“We should take note of all the speeches and statements by politicians of the Doha Conference that link them to Jabhat al-Nusra,” he added.
Several opposition groups gathered in the Qatari capital late last year and formed the “National Coalition” to secure tangible foreign backing.
Reading the statement, Oussi also warned against attempts to harm the Syrian army, saying it was “a red line,” and the only body that could safeguard the country’s unity.
Asked about whether the new group would agree on Assad remaining in power, Oussi said: “The Syrian people are the only ones who can decide that.”
He said the party also seeks to expose violations of human rights in Syria by extremist militant groups and fight foreign intervention that “contradicts Syria’s sovereignty.”
Oussi, a Kurdish delegate at the first national dialogue meeting in Damascus that was held last year in a bid to contain the crisis, also said that national dialogue and reconciliation were the only means to end the conflict.