Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syrian opposition faces split over Geneva peace talks - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page
President of the Syrian National Council (SNC) George Sabra (C) and members of Syrian National Council attend a press conference at the end of Syrian Opposition meeting on May 30, 2013 in Istanbul. (AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE.)

President of the Syrian National Council (SNC) George Sabra (C) and members of Syrian National Council attend a press conference at the end of Syrian Opposition meeting on May 30, 2013 in Istanbul. (AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE.)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The head of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council George Sabra threatened on Sunday to pull his group out of the Syrian opposition’s main umbrella opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, if it participates in the peace talks on Syria expected to begin mid-November in Geneva, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

Earlier this week, the Council said it would not engage in any peace negotiations with the Syrian regime, claiming that such a step would represent a strategic setback to the Syrian revolution.

Following two days of extensive deliberations in the Turkish capital, the Council issued a statement justifying its decision, citing “international and regional political stances that remained silent to the suffering of the Syrian people and the brutal massacres committed by the regime and his sectarian allies.”

The statement continued that taking part in any negotiations with the Assad regime “goes against the objectives and fundamentals of the Syrian revolution.”

Sabra told news agency AFP that the Council “had taken the firm decision… not to go to Geneva under the present circumstances (on the ground)”.

“Ghouta (the agricultural belt around Damascus) is under siege and it is forbidden to even bring in bread. Are these the conditions that will allow us to achieve…a democratic transition in Syria?” he added.

“The international community has focused on the murder weapon, which is the chemical weapons, and left the murderer unpunished and forgotten the victims,” he added.

Established in October 2011, the 400-member Council was expanded last November amid claims that the Syrian franchise of the Muslim Brotherhood was dominating other group members, such as the General Secretariat of the Damascus Declaration, as well as some Kurdish and Assyrian representatives.

Michel Kilo, a prominent member of the Syrian National Coalition, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “stance of the Council is one of the responses that reveals and indicates the general political mood of the Syrian opposition regarding the Syrian crisis and the international stances towards it.”

Kilo said that the today the “opposition is almost unable to understand the policy of the Western countries, particularly the US lax attitude towards the Syrians…despite the amount of violence and killing since the early weeks [of the Syrian uprising.]”

Kerry’s recent praise of Assad’s quick response to dismantling his chemical arsenal “left a terrible psychological impact on the components of the opposition and the entire Syrian people,” he said.

According to Kilo, dismantling the Syrian chemical arsenal “only serves Israel,” and this is what the “US and Russia wanted.”

“Who cares about more than a thousand Syrians killed in the chemical attack in Ghouta [district]? Who cares about the deaths of 23 children who died out of hunger in one week in Muadamiyat Al-Sham [district]?” Kilo said.

“The Council and the Syrian opposition in general feel they have been abandoned to be mercilessly killed in full view of the world,” he said, justifying the Council’s step which he said is meant to show the world that oppression, anger and pain Syrians feel.

Reiterating Sabra’s remarks, Kilo slammed Geneva II for lacking a clear agenda, “They want us to go in a joint delegation to Geneva with the absence of any mechanism or vision for the negations.”

“Refusing to take part in Geneva is not confined to the Council, as there is an almost absolute conviction among the components of the Coalition that going to Geneva will write the final chapter of the defeat of the Syrian people in a sense that any loophole the regime [can find] in Geneva will be an absolute defeat for the Syrian revolution,” Kilo added.

Asked whether the Council’s decision will affect its membership in the Coalition, Kilo answered that the Council’s stance “strengthens rather than weakens the Coalition because none want to take part in Geneva,” adding that the “Council is a main component in the Coalition which will not compromise its unity.”