Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Representatives of the main Syrian opposition factions will be meeting in Cairo between Thursday and Saturday in an attempt to agree on common positions ahead of talks on the Syria conflict in Moscow set to begin later this month.
The Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) has called on several Syrian opposition figures to meet in Cairo with the aim of “reaching a consensus over [formulating] a political vision that is isolated from any pressures and influences.”
The invitation comes one week after some opposition groups turned down a call from Moscow to attend the talks in the Russian capital with representatives of the Syrian government, exacerbating divisions within Syria’s already fractious opposition.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Cairo, a member of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, Bassam Al-Malik, said the ECFA has invited some 30 opposition figures to discuss ways to reach a consensus over a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Only two members of the Coalition, an umbrella organization of exiled opposition groups, will attend the meeting which will include members from the National Coordination Committee (NCC) and the Building the Syrian State movement, two Syrian-based opposition blocs.
Prominent opposition figure and former coalition leader Moaz Al-Khatib has turned down Cairo’s invitation, Malik said.
He said: “There are patriotic figures who have been invited to the meeting but we [the Coalition] do not know who they are, how they have been invited, or who picked them.”
The meeting does not have a specific agenda, the Coalition member said, and that participants will put forward a “worksheet” on a political solution to the crisis.
“The number of those invited to attend the consultative meeting in Cairo between December 22 and 24 is 30 [opposition] figures, and may rise to 40 or 50,” a Beirut-based Syrian opposition source told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said “eleven NCC members, eight Coalition members, and three from the Kurdish National council” will attend the meetings.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a source from the Istanbul-based Coalition voiced concerns that the Cairo meeting will “produce a new opposition body to act as a replacement for the Coalition.”
The Coalition’s vice-president, Hisham Marwa, criticized the Egyptian hosts for “hasty organization” and failure to officially invite his group.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Coalition is not concerned with the Cairo talks since it has not received an official and direct invitation.”
“Several Coalition members have received invitations, some will prefer not to go and some may give the dialogue a chance since [the decision] to go or not will be left for them,” he added.
Paula Astih contributed reporting from Beirut