International Community Mulls Next Options for Syrian Opposition

Free Syrian Army fighters train in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria
Free Syrian Army fighters train in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria
Dorian Jones

A meeting in Istanbul of more than 70 international delegates supporting the Syrian opposition was overshadowed by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's continuing efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. But as  Annan's detente moves slowly, the so-called Friends of Syria may potentially play a larger role.

The second meeting of delegates mainly from Western nations and the Arab world in Istanbul on Sunday made few concrete decisions in support of the Syrian opposition. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the priority was to support Annan in his bid to resolve the crisis.

"Any dissent in the international community undermines Kofi Annan and increases the risk of the country descending into the hell of a civil war," Bildt said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to comply with Mr. Annan's six-point peace plan which calls for talks between the opposition and the Syrian government. But as the violence continues, the international community is skeptical.

Annan told the U.N. Security Council Monday that there has been no progress on getting the Syrian government to implement a cease-fire. He said the Syrian government has agreed to an April 10 deadline to put parts of the peace plan into motion.

In the final communiqué issued at the Friends of Syria meeting Sunday, a timeline was demanded for the Syrian government's compliance.

But Syria's allies Russia and China have blocked tough action against Damascus in the U.N. Security Council. Russia on Monday chided Western and Arab nations for setting "ultimatums and artificial deadlines" at the Istanbul meeting.

Bassma Kodmani, the spokesperson for the opposition Syrian National Council, says it is time for Russia to consider a new stance.

"This is the opportunity for Russia to show that it is changing its position. I really look forward to see that happen. If that was to drag on and not happen, and we don't see there is a prospect of a credible way out, I think the Friends of Syria coalition is the ones who have to consider options for coming to the rescue of the Syrian people," Kodmani said.

While achieving consensus on Syria is difficult, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says compromises have to be made.

"France shares the view of the Turkish government. We wish that the Syrian National Council could be recognized as the legitimate representative body of the Syrian people. All the members of the groups are not on the same line. That's why we adopted a balanced wording in the communiqué," Juppe said.

Opposition groups to the Syrian government are splintered. Delegates at the Istanbul meeting, while recognizing the Syrian National Council as the leading opposition arm, pressed for greater unity among activists. Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt was at the meeting.

"We would like them to be as unified as possible. We understand that can take some time. I have underlined the necessity of the opposition to really gain the confidence of all sectors and all of the groups in Syria. They are not quite there yet," Bildt said.

Some analysts say a lack of opposition consensus is holding back international efforts to arm the opposition. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have voiced support for such a move, but so far have refrained despite calls by the Syrian National Council for weapons.

Funds are being provided by some Arab Gulf States to pay members of the rebel Free Syrian Army who are fighting Assad's regime.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan outlined a possible timetable for a greater role of the Friends of Syria if Annan's diplomacy falters.

He said that if Mr. Annan's efforts fail and the U.N. Security Council again does not act, then this will give the Syrian people a right to self-defense and that no one in the international community can stand in their way.

Ankara has said it is considering the creation of a buffer zone in Syria to provide humanitarian relief. But Turkish diplomatic sources say Ankara would not act unilaterally.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs