Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Leading figures in the Syrian National Coalition said on Tuesday that they agreed in principle to send a united delegation to the Geneva II conference to represent the opposition, but that they objected to the participation of figures linked to the regime such as former Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil and the president’s uncle, Rifaat Al-Assad.
Najib Al-Ghadban, a representative of the Coalition in the United States, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Russians were still against the opposition. “The Russians want to talk to their friends, such as Qadri Jamil and Rifaat Al-Assad,” he said.
“The talk about a united delegation is a procedural matter. If the Russians were serious about resolving the Syrian crisis they would have put pressure on the Syrian regime to accept the decisions of Geneva I and recognized the Coalition like the rest of the world,” he added.
Ghadban welcomed the idea of “Syrian opposition participation in Geneva II with a united delegation,” saying that “what is important is to unite the vision and agree that Bashar Al-Assad has no role in any transitional process to end this crisis.”
“There are nationalist figures in the National Coordination Committee we can work with to decide Assad’s fate,” he said, but he rejected the idea of “Qadri Jamil and the party he represents being part of Geneva II, because he is part of the regime, not the opposition.”
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave an interview to the independent Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Tuesday, saying that “internal opposition” within the groups opposed to Bashar Al-Assad was complicating efforts to find a resolution to the Syrian conflict.
Lavrov told the paper: “When all of the demands will go on the table from both sides, it will be possible to put together some compromise agreements based on mutual concessions.”
He added: “We have not reached this point because, despite some realism from the opposition, a delegation has not been formed to represent the whole Syrian people.”
Lavrov said the Coalition had “monopolized the representation of Syrian people” and that it did not represent all parts of the Syrian opposition. He called on opposition groups to reach an understanding among themselves and called on them to form a united front and speak with one voice at Geneva II.
The secretary of the National Coordination Committee who handles the Syrian diaspora, Majid Habbo, responded to Lavrov’s remarks in comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, saying that “he [Lavrov] meant the Coordination Committee, which includes nationalist and left-wing figures, unlike the Coalition, which is an alliance between political Islam and liberal forces.”
Habbo added that the National Coordination Committee was eager to attend Geneva II as part of a united delegation representing Syrian opposition but that “there must be a minimum level of political agreement with the Coalition.”
He revealed that “there was a plan for a meeting to be held in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, between representatives of the Coalition and those of the coordination committee to discuss the possibility of forming a united delegation to participate in Geneva II.”
Speaking after talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and a Syrian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he was optimistic that the Geneva II conference would be held.
Amir-Abdollahian described the talks with his Russian and Syrian counterparts as “very important and constructive,” but added: “We do not think there is total commitment from the opposition to participate in Geneva II.”