News / Middle East

    Syrian Opposition Admits Liberals to Anti-Assad Coalition

    FILE - George Sabra, a veteran Christian opposition figure and acting President of the Syrian National Coalition, speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, May 13, 2013.
    FILE - George Sabra, a veteran Christian opposition figure and acting President of the Syrian National Coalition, speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, May 13, 2013.
    Reuters
    Syria's opposition, under pressure to broaden its Islamist-dominated leadership, struggled to overcome deep rifts on Thursday and form a united front for a proposed international conference to try to end the Syrian war.
     
    Delegates at talks in Istanbul agreed to add 14 members of a liberal bloc led by veteran figure Michel Kilo to the 60-member assembly of the Syrian National Coalition, the closest body that Assad's foes have to an overall civilian leadership in the two-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
     
    That partial breakthrough followed seven days of talks and required the intervention of Turkey and Western and Arab nations. They fear that unless deep fissures in the opposition ranks are healed, the chances of a successful Geneva peace conference soon, sponsored by Russia and the United States, are slight.
     
    But many hurdles remain in the process to choose new leaders for a coalition that has been rudderless since March and to name a provisional government that could strengthen what are now weak links with rebel units inside Syria.
     
    A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said there was no deal yet but the coalition was working on one and Washington was “hopeful that the opposition will vote to elect leadership and to come to a conclusion on how they will expand their membership”.
     
    “We ... expect when they make their final decisions we will be able to work with those leadership members and move forward in planning the Geneva conference,” she said.
     
    The coalition is controlled by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and a faction loyal to Mustafa al-Sabbagh, a businessman who has been Qatar's point man for channeling financial and armed support to the opposition.
     
    Thursday's announcement would give Kilo's bloc 14 seats, short of the 25 he had demanded, and also add more allies of Sabbagh's and other factions to the assembly. It has yet to be finalized.
     
    Kilo sounded optimistic. “We have reached an agreement. I think we need some time to prepare before we embark on the leadership selection process,” he said.

    Vote delayed
     
    But a formal vote to approve Kilo's bloc entry was delayed late on Thursday and negotiations stretched into another night.
     
    A member of the Sabbagh bloc said: “Internal procedures must be respected and Kilo cannot be allowed to shove his way into the coalition.”
     
    Sabbagh and Kilo are also negotiating the admission of 14 other members of activists' groups inside Syria and finding a neutral mechanism to choose them.
     
    Agreement has yet to be reached on Free Syrian Army demands to be represented in the coalition, coalition sources said.
     
    The shape of the new coalition, if it is formalized, could lessen the dominant influence of Qatar and give Saudi Arabia more influence in opposition politics as Riyadh backs the Kilo  bid and improves its ties with the brotherhood.
     
    Lebanese Shi'ite guerrillas from Iranian-backed Hezbollah are openly fighting alongside government forces in Syria. Opposition sources say Saudi Arabia is keen to play a greater role in backing the Sunni-led opposition against Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has controlled Syria since the 1960s.
     
    Kilo, a multi-lingual, soft-spoken former political prisoner, came out of the meeting room accompanied by a senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood, which lent de facto support to Kilo in the haggling over the expansion of the assembly.
     
    The Brotherhood has good links with Qatar and is also influenced by Turkey which gave Brotherhood members fleeing President Hafez al-Assad's repression refuge in the 1980s.
     
    Kamal al-Labwani, a maverick member of the coalition, said a rapprochement between the liberal and Islamist wing of the opposition could help it undercut Russian attempts to have figures among the representatives of the opposition at Geneva who are willing to allow Assad to stay in power.
     
    “It is very dangerous to allow an opposition delegation to go to Geneva without sticking to the goals of the revolution, or accept an early ceasefire under the excuse that the people are tired, without guarantees that the regime will depart,” Labwani said.
     
    “An incomplete peace that awards a de facto pardon to Bashar and his cohorts will be far more costly than a continuation of the war.”  

    Related report by Zlatica Hoke:

    Syria's Opposition Demands Deadline for Assad to Leavei
    X
    May 30, 2013 11:14 AM
    Syria's opposition is demanding a deadline for Bashar al-Assad to leave power if it is to attend proposed international peace talks. Meeting in Istanbul Wednesday, opposition leaders said they want "binding international guarantees," including what they call the "removal of the head of the regime" and its military command. But the embattled president remains defiant, insisting he will remain Syria's leader at least until the 2014 elections and that he may run for another term. Zlatica Hoke has more.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    June 01, 2013 10:01 PM
    Meenwhile today U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that all parties will be held accountable for atrocities committed against civilians in Qusair.

    Why the hell isnt there a warrant for Bashar al Assad?

    by: gig24
    May 31, 2013 11:15 AM
    Russia staging large war,that's why eg Mr Putin did not have the courage for 3 hrs to see Mr Kerry, that's why Ministre Marshal Sergiao had to say in aninterview about AAA to Assad " I don't know,I am not in charge of shipment" ,he knew exactly what russian's war plan is and what volume of Armada makes its way to the middle east via Bosporus canal southbound (see livecam on turkishnavy.net) They lie to Assad, they lie via China to KIM JUNG-UN . That's why he was tricked to say march2013 he would launch nuclear attacks to USA and SK.- In Korea and ME , it s the Russians/china who stage a worldwar , using these 5 frontmens: Amadinashad,KimJung-UN,Hizbollah,Taliban,Assad.

    Amadinashad has trained his professionals in Russia long ago on Mig29 aircrafts , on S300 AAA , and all vehicles/guns now on the way into staging areas, and also including US Arsenal sitting in Kuwait.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    May 30, 2013 2:10 PM
    All external forces must be excluded. But to alienate Assad, a country man and president, the number one citizen is great injustice and must be proposed by those who don't mean peace for Syria. The opposition is greatly confused and deceived to toe the way of saying Assad must be excluded thereby showing no way out of the present predicament. Until the op[position proposes something that is realistic, they will continue to wallow in stupidity and continue to have the blood of innocent civilians killed in the prosecution of this war on their hands.
    In Response

    by: gig24
    May 31, 2013 9:46 AM
    Breaking News in VOA

    Reports: Russian Missiles Unlikely to Reach Syria for Months but look here weblivecam southbond Bosporus www.turkishnavy.net ...an armada floating towards the ME a lot more than AAA weaponnery.They got large scale plans ,like USA had in Feb 2003 southbound suez!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    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 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 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 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