News / Middle East

Leadership Questions Could Hamper Syria Peace Talks

Head of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces Mouaz al-Khatib speaks during the group's meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, May 23, 2013.
Head of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces Mouaz al-Khatib speaks during the group's meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, May 23, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Next month's Washington - Moscow talks to end the Syrian conflict appear in doubt.  The Syrian opposition, at a meeting in Istanbul, remains divided on electing new leadership and it is still unclear if the opposition will attend the talks. 

Western backers of the opposition are pushing for a broader and more diverse leadership.  But attempts to weaken the power of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian National Coalition have so far failed.  The outgoing chairman of the coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, made an appeal for unity.

"We say at the end, we must cooperate with our people, with Syrians, who are under very, very hard circumstances to save our country," he said.

The spokesman for the opposition coalition, Khaled Saleh, said progress was being made.

Source of disagreement

But the current deadlock over who should lead and speak for the opposition has put next month's talks in doubt.

Russia had announced Friday that, in principle, the Damascus government said it would attend the peace talks.

But with the Syrian opposition remaining leaderless, its participation is unclear.  A European diplomat, speaking on the sidelines of the current Istanbul meeting, said it would be unthinkable if the opposition did not attend, but acknowledged new opposition leadership needs to be installed.

Some opposition members have accused Western countries of interfering in the leadership process. The ongoing talks in Istanbul, which will continue Sunday and Monday, are expected to see further efforts to reach a compromise and make a final decision on whether to go ahead with next month's peace conference, which is aimed at ending the bloody civil war that has wracked Syria for more than two years.

Syria violence intensifies

But as the deliberations continue, the fighting in Syria continues to intensify.  Senior opposition Member George Sabra warned of the current escalation in combat.

Sabra says thousands of Iranian and Iranian-backed militia groups are entering Syria from Lebanon to fight for the Assad regime.  And he said the world remains silent.

Sabra called on rebel forces to unite and provide assistance to those forces currently under siege, including those in the town of Qusair on the Lebanese border.  Syrian activists say Saturday saw some of heaviest fighting as the regime seeks to take the strategic town.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs