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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs