Syria opposition unable to reach consensus on Geneva II

Syria opposition unable to reach consensus on Geneva II
Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:16:26

Several factions of the Syrian opposition have been unable to reach agreement on who should attend an international peace talks on Syria later this month, or whether they would attend at all.

With less than a fortnight to go until the first direct talks between the opposition and the Syrian government – set for Jan. 22 in Switzerland and called “Geneva II” – Western backers struggled to unify militant groups on Friday.

The main opposition body in exile, the National Coalition, has been plagued by bickering. It postponed a decision on whether to attend Geneva II until next week after nearly a quarter of its 121 members threatened to resign following the re-election of its Saudi-backed leader, Ahmad al-Jarba.

Diplomats hoped they could bring a more comprehensive group together at Friday’s meeting in Cordoba – a venue offered by the Spanish government because of its historical importance as the capital of an Islamic caliphate 1,000 years ago.

A final communique from the meeting proposes setting up a committee to coordinate opposition groups, with the eventual goal of holding a national conference attended by about 1,000 people, said Yahya al-Aridi, a spokesman for the meeting.

“That is the endeavor: to focus on finding people, who have differences, but at the same time they have one common goal,” he said. He added that the new committee would not be a political body, suggesting it would not replace the National Coalition, which Western and Arab countries see as the official opposition.

The communique, part of it seen by Reuters, repeated the opposition’s longstanding condition that Geneva II should create a transitional authority for Syria, but the demand has been rejected by Damascus and its allies as a baseless and unacceptable precondition for the peace talks.

The meeting saw National Coalition members sit down for the first time with opposition figures who still reside in Damascus and call for reforms, not President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. Such figures have been tolerated by the Syrian government but are at odds with many exile opposition groups.

More than 120,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million Syrian refugees have fled abroad. Another 4.25 million are displaced inside Syria.


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