BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt urged the Syrian regime Monday to swiftly implement promised reforms and refrain from resorting to force against opposition groups, for the sake of the country’s unity and stability.
“Given our desire for Syria [to maintain] its stability and its advanced regional position in opposition to the Israeli occupation, we look forward to the current crisis ending and Syria entering a new phase based on political, social and economic reforms,” Jumblatt said in his weekly editorial in the PSP Al-Anbar weekly paper.
Jumblatt called on President Bashar Assad to hold Syrian officials responsible for incidents of violence, in order to restore trust between civilians and state institutions.
The crackdown against anti-government protesters, which human rights groups said has led to the deaths of more than 1,200 since March, will complicate problems rather than solve them, said Jumblatt, urging the regime to allow political freedoms and avoid force when dealing with the opposition.
“The immediate initiation of a comprehensive national dialogue with all factions inside and outside of Syria, without exception and away from formalities, will diminish tensions and allow discussions over the adoption of a framework to manage national issues,” Jumblatt said.
Jumblatt added that the reforms should begin with the release of all political prisoners and an end to the crackdown on protesters.
On May 31 Assad declared a general amnesty for all political prisoners, including the Muslim Brotherhood, who had been said to have committed crimes, the Syrian state media reported.
“We expect the promises of President Assad to be quickly implemented in order to preserve Syria’s stability, national unity and regional role, as some parties seek to exploit the incidents to deal a blow to the Syrian regime and weaken its role to fuel further violence,” Jumblatt said.
Jumblatt also praised those in the Druze community in Syria who supported the Palestinians in Sunday’s march to the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights.
He also offered his condolences to the families of protesters who were shot by Israeli soldiers as they tried to cross into the Golan Heights.
Israeli forces killed a reported 23 people and wounded scores more in the second violent incident in the border area in less than a month.
The march, marking the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, drew Israeli accusations that Syria was orchestrating the violence to shift attention away from its crackdown on opposition protests.