Last weekend, Dan Stoenescu, Head of the European Union Mission to Syria, held a meeting in Istanbul with members of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC). The purpose of the meeting was to strategize on methods of countering the current normalization process with Assad and to revitalize the political process.
Ruba Habboush, SOC vice-president, Political Committee Secretary Abd al-Majid Barakat, and committee members Ahmed Tomeh, Salim Idris, and Zuhair Muhammad were all present at the meeting. Habboush expressed concern that normalization and the Arab League re-admittance of Assad directly undermined the will of the Syrian people, the revolution, and opposition forces, as well as UN Resolution 2254 and the framework for transitional justice and peace. She emphasized that the Syrian people “anticipate concrete actions from the European Union to counteract normalization with the Assad regime.”
Other members of the SOC broached the topics of the harsh treatment of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, citing their refoulement, arrest, torture, and abuse by both civilians and the Lebanese authorities. They called on the EU to do more to counter these trends. The importance and limitations of EU sanctions on the Assad regime and its supporters were also discussed, with the SOC urging for the strengthening and continuation of sanctions. However, they acknowledged that “sanctions alone cannot topple the regime or change its behavior.”
Stoenescu assured the attendees that the EU “remains dedicated to supporting the Syrian people, no matter their location,” and clarified that the EU does not support normalization with the Assad regime. He also affirmed, “There will be no reconstruction or lifting of sanctions until a political solution is reached.”