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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs