|Col. Asa'ad and Brig. Gen. Sheikh (Photo from CNN}|
“Unity” is the Syrian opposition’s buzzword in the countdown to the April 1 “Friends of the Syrian People” meeting in Istanbul.
A day after armed Syrian rebel groups combined their commands,
-- The Syrian National Council (SNC) is inviting all Syrian opposition factions, including disaffected members, to agree a “National Pact for the New Syria” in two days of talks opening tomorrow, Monday, in Istanbul.
-- And the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is preparing to issue later today a manifesto proclaiming a new National Covenant.
Brig. Gen. Mustafa Sheikh, one of the first high-ranking officers to defect from the Syrian Army, said in a video posted Saturday on YouTube that armed rebel groups have aligned under the leadership of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
FSA commander Col. Riad al-Asa’ad appeared next to Sheikh in the video.
"First, we decided to unite all the military councils and battalions and all the armed battalions inside the country under one unified leadership of the FSA and to follow the orders of the commander of the FSA, Col. Riad al-Asa’ad," Sheikh said.
Second, with the FSA serving and protecting Syrians, "any movement to carry out a military operation or do anything outside the framework of the FSA "will be held responsible for any act they carry out," Sheikh warned.
Third, soldiers and officers in the Syrian armed forces "who don't have blood on their hands" are urged to defect and join FSA ranks.
Sheikh's appearance with al-Asa’ad also mended rifts between the two main defectors' groups, the FSA and the Higher Military Council.
Al-Asa’ad will lead all FSA field operations, while Sheikh will remain head of the Higher Military Council and will represent the FSA in trying to get weapons and international support.
The SNC meanwhile says a proposed agreement by all opposition factions on a “National Pact for the New Syria” ahead of the “Friends of the Syrian People” meeting would underscore “all the opposition groups shared objective to be rid of tyranny and attain the ultimate goal of building a civil, pluralistic and democratic state.”
According to the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, the Muslim Brotherhood’s anticipated National Covenant would commit, among other things, to:
- The establishment of a modern civil state
- A new constitution based on national consensus and apt to stave off arbitrary majority rule
- Pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power through the ballot box
- Fair and transparent elections
- The right to equality before the law and non-discrimination applying to all citizens, ethnic groups and sects
- Human rights and international law
- Renunciation of terrorism and torture