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

    Can EU Survive a Brexit?

    Across Europe politicians are asking if the British vote to leave the European Union will set in motion dynamics that will see other member states leave too

    Video Entrepreneurs Tackle Sexual Harassment, Rural Health Care at Global Summit

    VOA talks to enterprising business people from India, Nigeria, Myanmar about their programs to help their respective countries overcome obstacles

    Key African Anti-Venom About to Permanently Run Out

    The tale of Fav-Afrique’s demise is a complicated one that reflects a deeper crisis brewing in global public health

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Marketsi
    X
    June 24, 2016 10:43 AM
    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Markets

    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.
    Video

    Video During Ramadan, Faith and Football Converge in Lebanon’s Megadome

    In Beirut, a group of young entrepreneurs has combined its Muslim faith and love of football to create the city's newest landmark: a large, Ramadan-ready dome primed for one of the biggest football (soccer) tournaments in the world. But as the faithful embrace the communal spirit of Islam’s holy month, it is not just those breaking their fasts that are welcome.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora