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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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 Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid