News / Middle East

Syria Opposition Holds 'Unified' Meeting Ahead of Peace Talks

FILE - A delegation of the main Syrian opposition arrives to meet with the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
FILE - A delegation of the main Syrian opposition arrives to meet with the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
Reuters
Disparate Syrian opposition groups, including several Islamist rebel representatives, met for the first time in the Spanish city of Cordoba to seek common ground ahead of peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad's government later this month.
 
After nearly three years of conflict the opposition has fractured into competing groups with different regional backers and the West is pushing to gather a unified body of opposition members to attend negotiations on Jan. 22, dubbed “Geneva 2.”
 
Prospects for progress at the talks in Switzerland appear dim. Assad, buttressed by recent military gains and a wave of rebel infighting, has flatly ruled out demands from the weakened opposition that he stand aside.
 
The two-day meeting in Spain brings together members of the Western-backed National Coalition but also delegates from opposition groups inside Syria that are tolerated by Assad as they do not call for his removal - and are therefore distrusted by many exiled opposition members.
 
“Most colors from Syria are represented here. There is even one person from Syrian security who supports Assad,” said veteran dissident Kamal Labwani.
 
At least three members of the Islamic Front had also come, he said. The front is made up of several Islamist brigades which represent a large portion of fighters on the ground and reject the authority of the National Coalition.
 
“We want them to be here. We will listen to them,” Labwani said. Differences between the delegates were too deep to bridge at the meeting, he added, but it would aim to create a dialog among them.
 
Diplomats say the gathering is recognition that the divided National Coalition - which has yet to formally accept an invitation to attend Geneva 2 - is losing influence on the ground and a more comprehensive grouping is needed ahead of the talks.
 
Rebels from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army were also at the meeting in Cordoba, a venue chosen by the Spanish government because of its historical importance as the capital of the Islamic caliphate during the Middle Ages.
 
Organizers said they did not have a complete list of attendees and some unexpected delegates had turned up.
 
A representative from Liwa al-Islam, a brigade that works with the Islamic Front, told Reuters he was attending the meeting but gave no further details of his role.
 
Opposition figure Fawaz Tello, one of the meeting's organizers, said Cordoba was prepared three months ago to encompass the “whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition. To sit together and define a mutual vision”.
 
“This is not for the election of another leadership or to decide the delegates for Geneva,” he said.
 
Assad's forces have recently been gaining ground against rebel fighters backed by the opposition and he faces little pressure to make concessions. At the same time, radical Islamists distrusted by the West have taken a bigger role in the campaign to oust Assad.
 
“We are gathered here today despite our different views to try and reach a consensus that can save our people,” Sheik Mohammed al-Yacoubi, an opposition Muslim cleric, said at the start of the meeting, which will last until Friday evening.
 
Syria was plunged into civil war after an uprising against four decades of Assad family rule erupted in March 2011 and descended into an armed insurgency after the army cracked down on protests.

  • Syrian rebel fighters hold their weapons as they walk along a street in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighborhood, Jan. 10, 2014.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter looks on as he holds the Syrian opposition flag during a protest against Syria's president and fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighborhood, Jan. 10, 2014.
  • A boy holds bread as he walks in front of the Syrian opposition flag during a protest against Syria's president and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighborhood, Jan. 10, 2014.
  • Bystanders look on as crews begin clearing the wreckage of a car bomb that exploded near a school in Al-Kafat, Syria, Jan. 9, 2014.
  • The remains of a car destroyed by a suicide bomb near the front of a damaged building in Al-Kafat, Jan. 9, 2014.
  • People survey the damage to a building destroyed by a suicide car bomb in Al-Kafat, Syria,  Jan. 9, 2014.
  • Damaged buildings line a deserted street in the besieged area of Homs, Jan. 9, 2014. 
  • Free Syrian Army fighters are deployed in Kadi Askar in Aleppo after they claimed that they seized it from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Jan. 7, 2014.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to launch a mortar towards fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant from a street in the Kadi Askar neighborhood of Aleppo, Jan. 7, 2014.
  • Men help a wounded boy who survived what activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Jan. 7, 2014.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid