News / Middle East

Syria Opposition Tries Again to Pick Prime Minister

Leadership deliberates in Turkey as donors offer direct humanitarian aid for liberated regions, support for ‘murky world’ of armed rebels

Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib leads a two-day general assembly that may select a prime minister to create a shadow government in liberated areas of Syria’s civil war. Shown here at a Munich meeting with donor countries last month. (AP)Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib leads a two-day general assembly that may select a prime minister to create a shadow government in liberated areas of Syria’s civil war. Shown here at a Munich meeting with donor countries last month. (AP)
x
Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib leads a two-day general assembly that may select a prime minister to create a shadow government in liberated areas of Syria’s civil war. Shown here at a Munich meeting with donor countries last month. (AP)
Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib leads a two-day general assembly that may select a prime minister to create a shadow government in liberated areas of Syria’s civil war. Shown here at a Munich meeting with donor countries last month. (AP)
David Arnold
Syrians trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad began a two-day meeting in Istanbul on Monday in an attempt to choose an interim prime minister.
  
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is meeting in the Turkish city to consider 12 candidates for the prime ministership. Two previous efforts to choose a prime minister and form an interim government in portions of rebel-held Syria have failed.
 
“We will see if we choose a prime minister or not,” Coalition spokesman Walid Al-Bunni said last week in announcing today’s meeting. “Some say there is a need, and others say there is no need.”

Some coalition members prefer what they consider a less-confrontational "executive committee" that could foster dialogue with the Assad regime. Under their plan, formation of a government would come later.
 
The majority say there is a need in order to provide electricity and schools and health care
But Bunni said most delegates believe they need to move quickly to form a government. “The majority say there is a need in order to provide electricity and schools and health care,” he said.
 
Among the dozen candidates for prime minister are Salem Al-Meslet, a leader of Syria’s tribal groups; Osama Kadi, an economist previously living in Canada who has been serving the revolution in the Aleppo region for many months: Assad Asheq Mustafa, a former agriculture minister and defector from the regime: and Ghassan Hitto, a Syrian-American from Texas who directs the Coalition’s aid coordination program for liberated Syria.
 
The push to elect an interim government was endorsed over the weekend by Gen. Salim Idriss, the chief of staff of a group of opposition units seeking to improve the effectiveness of the rebel Free Syria Army.
 
How to serve Syria’s rebel-held regions
 
Even if the Coalition further delays decisions about its political future, the war and its impact on the people of Syria continue. The United Nations estimates more than 70,000 people have been killed, that millions have been driven from their homes inside Syria and that tens of thousands more have fled the country.
 
Right now, the amount of aid that is going in to Syria doesn’t even come close
The U.N. is appealing for donations to help those displaced and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged $63 million in direct humanitarian aid for rebel-held areas of Syria.
 
“Right now, the amount of aid that is going in to Syria doesn’t even come close,” said Hitto, a frontrunner among the 12 candidates and who now directs the Council’s assistance coordination from Turkey. According to the U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, only about 10 percent of Syria’s humanitarian needs are being met, Hitto said.

Related video report by Jeff Seldin
Pressure Rising on Syrian Oppositioni
X
March 18, 2013 5:47 PM
Syria's opposition coalition is meeting in Istanbul, trying again to pick leaders and form a government with the hope of administering diverse rebel-held parts of the country. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports on this latest effort by the opposition to form a rebel government to replace the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Previously, the United Nations and a dozen non-government organizations conducting aid delivery in Syria could not reach many of the war’s victims because of the violence and Syrian government restrictions placed on their operations.  The U.S. humanitarian aid will go directly to rebel-held areas not served by U.N. agencies.
 
“Over half of the population in the north needs aid,” Hitto says, but notes that the U.N. can operate only through areas under control of the Assad government. “There isn’t a cross-border operation where the U.N. can operate from all borders. “
 
The U.S. humanitarian funds – which may not be available for another 30 to 60 days  – will support the operations of the Coalition and its Aid Coordination Unit offices in Cairo and provide grants for restoration of local public services in rebel-held areas.
 
Many communities have formed civic councils to restore public services such as lights, water, schools, courts and emergency medical services abandoned by government agencies. The aid from Washington is supposed to help with the purchase of generators, diesel fuel, training to reopen courts of law, and other humanitarian activities.
 
Where are rebel weapons coming from?
 
Brian Sayers of the Syrian Support Group in Washington, D.C. considers the U.S. direct aid to rebel-held Syria of major importance. “It’s a paradigm shift,” he said.
 
When Kerry announced the humanitarian aid in a Rome meeting with 10 other donors, he added that rebel units approved for U.S. aid also would get medical kits and food. At that conference, the rebel Coalition’s chairman, Moaz Al-Khatib, expressed disappointment that weapons weren’t included in the U.S. aid package. Kerry responded that other donors may fill in some of the gaps in aiding the revolution.
 
Whether that happens may be decided soon. Last Thursday, France and Britain announced would offer military aid to the rebels and proposed a meeting with other European Union nations to consider lifting an arms embargo on Syria.
 
Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are reported to have been funding weapons purchases in recent months.  The distribution of military aid from the Gulf states to Syria’s rebels is “a murky world,” said Sayers, but the rebels’ Free Syrian Army has been a recipient of some of that aid.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs