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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid