The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry:
Over 2 million people have fled Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, making this one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history with no end yet in sight. New estimates state over 12.5 million people are starving. The Syrian crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis in human history according to the United Nations.
The efforts you undertake in Geneva this week must have significant and achievable goals for ending violence, building democracy, and establishing stability and humanitarian assistance. It is our belief that Geneva II can only be a success if it establishes a means by which to implement the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012, (also known as ‘Geneva 1’) in its entirety.
The Coalition for a Democratic Syria (CDS) and its constituent groups believe in a political transition in Syria as set out in the London 11 Communiqué of October 22, 2013. For the Geneva conference to be a success, such a transition must be the outcome of the meeting and a process establishing a political transition to a Transitional Governing Body (TGB) based on the full implementation of Geneva I and as confirmed in the London 11 Communiqué, while preserving the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian State. The parties must adopt a declaration on the principles, steps and timeframe of the political transition to democracy. The process should not be open ended.
It must be assured that Bashar Assad and his close associates responsible for the violence committed against the Syrian people will have no role in Syria. Further, the international community must guarantee that they are held accountable for acts of atrocity committed against the Syrian people by the regime.
The stakeholders participating in Geneva cannot leave the table without a plan of verifiable commitment on the part of the Syrian regime to cease all acts of violence against its people. The Syrian regime has increased in its scale of violence against the Syrian people since Geneva 1. This includes most recently the use of barrel bombs on civilian areas, gas attacks, and evidence of torture. The participating entities at Geneva cannot and must not accept the Syrian regime’s excuse for illicit and inhumane acts of violence as combating terrorism. It is fundamental that all parties hold the regime accountable for any acts of violence committed post-Geneva.
Immediately the Syrian regime must allow full access to humanitarian organizations to all affected areas. Tens of thousands of civilians in Homs, Hasaka, Damascus, Damascus suburbs, and other areas are subjected to a systematic program of starvation as collective punishment by the Syrian regime. Without barrier, internationally-recognized aid and assistance organizations must be granted access to alleviate the suffering.
Geneva cannot conclude without a commitment and plan of action from the Syrian regime for the release of arbitrarily detained prisoners. There are thousands of detainees currently being tortured and abused in Syrian regime prisoners.
By engaging in the Geneva II process, the international community has taken the responsibility of the Syrian people upon themselves. With this process must come a full implementation of the Geneva I process, an end to atrocities, accountability for war crimes, and a transition to a peaceful, stable, democratic Syria. Without these, the Geneva II process will be a significant and painful failure that will undoubtedly lead to greater violence, greater suffering, and significantly greater regional insecurity.
Dr. Mohamed Kawam
Syrian Emergency Task Force
Syrian American Alliance
Syrian Christians for Peace
Syrian American Council
Dr. Yahya Basha
United for a Free Syria
The Free Syria Association