News

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.
Comments
     
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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs