News Analysis: Fissures in opposition may spoil Syrian national dialogue

09:46, July 05, 2011      

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by Hummam Sheikh Ali

A multitude of meetings are being held in Syria recently. These meetings, with the same goal of reaching a common vision for ending the country's months-long political crisis, are initiated by different factions in the opposition.

These meetings reflect the fissures among the opposition parties, and analysts believe that these fissures may spoil the national dialogue.

Political analyst Hamdi al-Abdallah told Xinhua by phone that " the division among the opposition is normal... Some of them are lost and don't know what they want. These people are incapable of reaching to a common ground."

"I think that dialogue would be complicated if it was with them, however, it would be fruitful if it was with those who are really representing social strata because they have specific demands," said Abdallah.

More than 100 intellectuals and reformist held a one-day meeting on Sunday at Semiramiss Hotel in Damascus under the title "National initiative for the future of Syria." Organizers said the meeting aims to discuss ways of heading off further "bloodletting" and moving Syria to a democratic and civil state.

However, the meeting was marred by wrangling among participants and faced many obstacles. It ended up with clashes, when Syrian dissident Majed Salha broke into the meeting room and shouted slogans calling for the overthrow of the regime. Participants beat him and threw him out of the room.

Mohammad Habash, a member of Syrian parliament and the organizer of Sunday's meeting, said the meeting was held mainly to bring points of view closer between Syrian authorities and the opposition parties.

"The message of the conference has already been sent," Habash told reporters, adding "there are some powers that do not want dialogue to start though we have taken into consideration all reasons to make the conference a success."

Habash stopped short of asserting that the meeting was a failure, but said "we are determined to go on with the meetings to end violence and ensure the transition of Syria to a democratic state."

Opposition activists, most live outside Syria, said it's too late for any efforts to bridge the gap between the regime and the protesters.

Some opposition figures, who had initially demanded sweeping reforms, have lately raised the ceiling of their demands to toppling the regime, citing the alleged military's bloody crackdown on protesters.

Skepticism is now high among Syrians over whether opposition parties could be able to hash out their differences and weld a united front that could be able to shape out the future of Syria.

"How could we trust them?" said Ahmed al-Hassan, a university student, "each day we see their differences in opinions and positions... It would be better for them to solve their inner problems before trying to solve the country's issues."

Abdul-Salam Ghazi, a former member of the parliament, said independent members of the parliament will meet Tuesday to map out a strategy for embarking on a national dialogue that could bring Syrian people closer."

"All of us seek a common formula within the framework of an overall national dialogue to stop bloodshed" and bring about stability and security, he said.

Also, some 50 opposition figures announced two days ago in a statement that they would hold a "national salvation conference" in Damascus on July 16 to put forward "general principles for the future perspective to go out of the current crisis through a transitional phase to be agreed upon by all Syrians and which will be led by a national salvation government that would lay foundations for a new constitution."

Meanwhile, opposition parties announced Thursday the formation of the "National Coordination Body for Democratic Change" with the participation of the parties of the opposition democratic national gatherings and six Kurdish parties.

On June 27, 190 critics of the Syrian regime held their first meeting in Damascus. But the meeting was brushed off by some opponents inside and outside the country as a publicity stunt for the government to convey a false impression it's allowing space for dissent.

The opposition said some 1,400 people have been killed during the government crackdown on nearly four months of street protests. Syria has blamed the unrest on armed groups and foreign conspiracy.

The divisions highlighted the splintered nature of the Syrian opposition. Some dissidents believe that change must be come from inside the country and the idea of foreign intervention has been shunned almost by all of them. The opposition parties' positions seemed far apart on whether to go on with the process of reforms announced by President Bashar al-Assad, an idea supported by most of them, or to call for the toppling of the regime as some of them have lately espoused.

Disagreement is one of the key hurdles laying ahead the start of the national dialogue conference called for by Assad. On Sunday, the consultative meeting for the national dialogue will be held in Damascus as a prelude for the national dialogue conference that would supposedly lay foundations for the transition of Syria towards a democratic state.

Some 100 figures, including opponents of the Syrian regime, are expected to take part.

The differences stoke fears that opposition parties would not be able to reach an agreement prior to the conference, and put the dialogue, which most Syrians are pinning hopes on to end the crisis, in an intractable dilemma.

Source: Xinhua
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