Syria opposition meet in Istanbul over Geneva talks

Syria opposition meet in Istanbul over Geneva talks
Sat Nov 9, 2013 18:32:38

Syria's divided opposition has begun meeting in Istanbul to decide whether to attend a peace conference that world powers want to hold in Geneva.

The talks involving the main umbrella opposition, the so-called National Coalition, took place in a hotel in Istanbul.

Before they decide whether to attend the peace conference -- aimed at launching negotiations between President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition-- bitter rival camps in the opposition must first seek a united front, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned earlier this week.

"There should be two delegations from Syria for Geneva 2 -- the government and the opposition," Brahimi said Tuesday. But, he added, "The opposition is divided and not ready... The opposition has problems."

The National Coalition -- which depends on foreign backing -- has long been plagued by regional rivalries and suffers from a lack of credibility in the eyes of both its allies and the various rebel groups fighting on the ground.

Since the start of the war al-Qaeda affiliated groups have been emerging under different names in Syria, fighting at the side of the US-backed opposition.

This has caused many in Syria to turn their back on the opposition as they witnessed their country being torn apart by extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda.

The extremist groups in several parts of the country have occupied small towns and villages and imposed their own version of law.

Reports of violent executions, especially killing Syrian soldiers, by al-Qaeda linked groups usually depict unprecedented behaviors that many experts describe as new levels of brutality.

The opposition, which is fueled by oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and several Western countries recently rebuffed the talks with setting a condition which has been Syrian government’s redline.

They said they will only attend the Geneva meeting if there is a date for Assad to leave. Syrian government says this is non-negotiable while Assad is actually one side of the meeting.

"We are leaning towards not taking part in the conference," said Samir Nashar, a member of the opposition coalition. "Will that position change? I don't know, but what I can say is that there's intense (international) political action (pushing towards participation). In politics everything is possible."

The Syrian National Council -- a key component of the Coalition -- has refused to take part in talks, threatening to quit the Coalition if some of its members agree to go.


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