News / Middle East

Syrian Rebels Meet on Possible Geneva Peace Talks

In this citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, a Syrian rebel fires a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Nov. 9, 2013.
In this citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, a Syrian rebel fires a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Nov. 9, 2013.
Edward Yeranian
Syria's main rebel bloc, the National Coalition, holds a second day of talks in Istanbul Sunday to decide whether to attend a peace conference in Geneva.
 
Rebels have resisted talks, saying they say they will go only if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad resigns first. A number of top opposition leaders also continue to insist that they will not participate if Iran attends the conference.

U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, says there can be no preconditions.

National Coalition member Haitham Al Maleh said Saturday he is skeptical that a Geneva conference could succeed, repeating that coalition members will not take part if, as he puts it, the Syrian regime continues to "kill people, arrest people and burn the country."
 
Western officials have said they hope the Geneva meeting can take place before the end of the year.

Fighting continues

The weekend meeting among rebels took place as fighting continued in Damascus and key cities of Homs and Aleppo. Government troops maintained their siege of rebel strongholds in the northern suburbs of the capital, but rebel forces retook a base near Aleppo Airport they had lost earlier.

Sources say fierce fighting overnight left more than 50 people dead.

Leaders of the opposition Syrian National Coalition met privately and in closed session at an Istanbul hotel, trying to establish a united position with respect to the proposed peace conference in Geneva under U.N. auspices. The attendance of both Iran and embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have opposition leaders divided over whether to attend or not.

Coalition spokesman Khaled Saleh told journalists his group had yet to make a final decision over whether to attend the proposed conference, but that a number of points need clarifying.

He says that his group is waiting for an official invitation to the conference from the U.N., which is the sponsor of the Geneva conference, and he hopes that the Russians will put pressure on the Assad regime so that success, and not empty words, will come out of the conference.

Assad has not only refused to offer to step down, but he insists that he will run for re-election in 2014.

Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution argues that the Syrian opposition is under intense pressure to attend the Geneva conference, but stands to gain little by doing so, given the bitter divisions among Arab states and a possible U.S. rapprochement with Iran.

“I think the balance in the region in 2013 is catastrophic for the opposition. They will be under immense pressure to go to Geneva," he said. "If they don't go to Geneva, they will be the holdouts, and it doesn't look good for them if they go to Geneva. Either way, it's a lose-lose proposition.”

Ajami also believes that the window of opportunity for the opposition to overthrow Assad has closed, as “advantages of guns, money, and the institutions of state” now favor the president.

The chemical weapons agreement with the Assad regime has given its leader an unlimited respite, he said, since “no one in the international community has an interest in overthrowing [him], while he is turning over chemical weapons.”

Rebel fighters and Islamist militias inside Syria have vowed not to participate in talks with the Assad regime in Geneva. Possible attendance of Assad's estranged uncle Rifa'at al-Assad, as well as fired Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil on the opposition side, also threaten to ignite more divisions.

No official decision on whether to attend is expected until Sunday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified boarder, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
November 10, 2013 2:06 AM
Two things should be happening now in the world. A FULL investigation into the use of Chemical weapons in Syria by accused Bashar al Assad. Secondly a full investigation into Genocide in Syria (Which includes Murder of thousands) inflicted by Bashar al Assad. Any investigations LESS than these are crimes against humanity in itself.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
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.

VOA Blogs