News / Middle East

    Syrian Opposition Ponders Peace Meeting

    FILE - Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, March 26, 2013.
    FILE - Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, March 26, 2013.
    Dorian Jones
    Syria's opposition coalition is to convene in Istanbul Thursday to decide whether to participate in talks next month on resolving the Syrian conflict that are being organized by Washington and Moscow. But the opposition has reservations about the role of the Syrian government in the planned talks.

    The Syrian National Coalition is due to meet over three days in Istanbul.  The deliberations will include whether to attend a meeting - brokered by Moscow and Washington - to end the Syrian bloodshed.  The U.S. and Russia are trying to bring the Syrian government and opposition together in early June for talks on a political solution.

    But Khaled Saleh, spokesman for the coalition, says there are serious reservations about joining the meeting.

    "The main concern that we have [is that] at the same time we are talking about peace process and political solution through this conference, the situation on the ground is getting worse by the day.  We see more massacres in Banias.  So we are very worried that Assad is not showing any good will toward a political solution," Saleh said.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned of serious consequences if Damascus fails to join next month’s meeting.  He has also appealed to the Syrian opposition to attend.

    Washington appears to be looking to the Turkish government to use its influence on the Syrian opposition, as U.S. President Barack Obama indicated after his meeting in Washington with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month.

    "The prime minister has been in the forefront of the international effort to push to a democratic Syria without Bashar Assad.  And Turkey is going to play an important role as we bring representatives of the regime and opposition together in the coming weeks," Obama said.

    The Turkish prime minister is one of the strongest supporters of the Syrian opposition, allowing both the political and military wings to use Turkish territory.  But until recently, Ankara has voiced strong reservations about dealing with Damascus.  Semih Idiz, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf, says Ankara has now changed its stance.

    "Previously Turkey's position was indexed on the idea that Assad [be removed] by military force, by means of arming the opposition and all that.  But Turkey has not really mustered sufficient international support for that idea.  So there is really one option left, which is a political settlement option now.  Turkey is not in a position to go against that international trend at the momen," Idiz said.

    Idiz says another factor in Ankara’s change of stance was the car bomb attack earlier this month in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, which killed 52 people.  While there is still debate over who was responsible for the attack, there is a consensus in Turkey it was connected to the Syrian conflict - adding to fears that the violence could spill into Turkey.

    Columnist Idiz thinks that Prime Minister Erdogan's support for the planned peace conference will help to overcome reservations among the Syrian opposition.

    "Turkey can convince the opposition that this is only way to go.  Not everybody in the opposition is pleased about this.  But Turkey can really be a facilitator by encouraging people to go along with this, rather than perhaps standing on the side, as it might have been previously," Idiz said.

    The Syrian National Coalition is expected to have a difficult time deciding whether or not to attend the planned peace talks next month.  But political observers say that with key allies like Turkey now adding their voice to those calling for participation, the opposition will find those calls hard to resist.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora