Marai, the candidate who pledges to work on Assad-opposition talks

Damascus, May 22 (EFE).- The opposition candidate for the Syrian presidential elections Mahmoud Marai said he is working to start talks between the opposition, including those in exile, and Bashar al-Assad’s regime with the mediation of the government’s ally, Russia.

Marai is one of two candidates running against Assad in the 26 May elections. He said he is campaigning for the release of prisoners of conscience, the kidnapped and disappeared as well as to end international sanctions and the “foreign occupation” of Syria.

“We want Syria to be a true democratic and pluralistic state,” the attorney, who has been incarcerated on two occasions, told Efe during an interview at his humble Damascus office.

Although he is aware that his chances against Assad are slim, Marai is convinced that his candidacy is important in order to draw attention to the opposition’s role the war-torn country.

“I have contact with the internal national opposition, as well as the foreign-based opposition, and there are several important figures (…) who contacted me and supported my electoral program,” he said.

“(These figures) are ready to take part in a national Syrian-Syrian dialogue conference that will take place in Damascus, because this is the way out and I have been working on this plan for a long time,” he added.

It will be overseen by international or regional powers with the mediation of Russia, who would guarantee exiled opposition leaders a safe passage in and out of Syria, he added.

Many exiled opposition leaders, especially in Turkey, consider the upcoming election illegitimate because it will allow Assad to extend his rule. Assad inherited power from his father in 2000.

Only the opposition leaders “whose hands have not been contaminated with blood or corruption” will take part in the dialogue, he said, without providing names.

“I know the external opposition well and I know who is linked to Istanbul and who is paid by Istanbul, who sleeps there, as well as in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States,” he said.

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