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Syrian armed opposition groups announce new alliance to fight Assad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Free Syrian Army fighters fire at Syrian government soldiers during a fierce firefight in Dera'a, Syria, in March 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video, File)

Free Syrian Army fighters fire at Syrian government soldiers during a fierce firefight in Dera’a, Syria, in March 2013.
(AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video, File)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Armed Syrian opposition groups have announced the new makeup of the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council, an alliance of more than 70 groups fighting against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, after three days of talks in the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

Burhan Ghalyoun, the former head of the Syrian National Coalition—the main umbrella coalition of opposition groups—told Asharq Al-Awsat the new alliance was necessary to unite all the different factions fighting against the Syrian regime, and to put an end to divisive outlooks and practices among them, including extremist activities.

Ghalyoun said the new body would also “work to rein in the activities of the different factions” fighting on the ground, including ensuring security of civilians in areas they control and putting an end to any transgressions committed by their members.

Mohamed Aloush, head of the Command Council’s Political Assembly, told Asharq Al-Awsat the new alliance was formed “along criteria different from those of the Syrian National Coalition.” He said the new body did not “seek to represent all [armed opposition] groups in a literal way, but instead took into account the [extent of the groups’] participation in the Syrian revolution and efforts on the ground.”

The new Command Council comes after four months of efforts and various negotiations among the Syrian opposition aiming to unify the disparate fighting groups that form the armed opposition to the Assad regime.

Armed opposition groups in Syria have recently lost ground to both the Assad regime and extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front, losing large swathes of territory gained since the start of the conflict in 2011.

One of the points of controversy surrounding the new coalition is the presence of Islamist groups. Groups such as ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front, are absent from the coalition, but others such as Jaysh Al-Islam, the Islamic Front, Ahrar Al-Sham, and Jaysh Al-Sham have been included.

Aloush, who is a senior member of Jaysh Al-Islam, said his group was ready to fight alongside minority groups in a united front against the Assad regime. “If any Christian or other fighting groups were formed on the ground, they would be able to join the Command Council,” he said, adding that “all these groups are equal in front of the law, and their rights will not be trampled upon.”

The Command Council draws together 219 individual members spread over six representative regions in the country, with 73 of them forming its General Command and representing each of the different fighting groups involved.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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