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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora