Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The newly elected president of the Syrian opposition’s main umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, has cast doubt over the possibility of the organization meeting with the Assad government in Moscow later this month.
Speaking just hours after his election at a news conference in Istanbul, where the Coalition is based, Khaled Khoja said: “What Moscow is proposing is dialogue with the regime, and this is something that is inconceivable for us.”
“It is simply impossible to sit with the regime at the same table unless this takes place within the context of negotiations which will guarantee a peaceful transition of power and the formation of a [political] authority with full powers,” he added.
Talks have been ongoing in Cairo between members of the Coalition and other opposition groups on whether to attend the meetings in Moscow, with some splits emerging over the issue.
The opposition insists any meetings with the government must take into account the outcomes of the communique issued at the conclusion of the Geneva I conference in the Swiss city in June 2012.
Among other measures, the Geneva Communique calls for the formation of a transitional government in Syria that could include both government and opposition figures, something Damascus wholly rejects.
Last week, an Arab diplomatic source, speaking to Al-Watan, a pro-Assad Syrian daily, said that the Syrian government did not regard the proposed Moscow conference as constituting “negotiations” or substantive talks of any kind, only that they would be “preliminary consultations” paving the way for any possible future meetings between the two sides.
Meanwhile, a source within the Coalition, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Khoja’s election was “the beginning of the end” for the organization, due to what he said were the latter’s close links to Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Khaled Al-Nasir, a member of the Political Committee in the Coalition, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the new president had “a tough job” ahead of him, and would have to deal with a number of “internal, Syrian and international issues.”