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Syrian opposition boycotts Geneva meeting to buy time


08:09, May 31, 2013

DAMASCUS, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Syria's main opposition group's rejection to take part in the forthcoming international meeting on the Syrian crisis is an attempt to buy more time to solve their internal disputes and obtain new gains, analysts said.

After a week-long meeting in Turkey's Istanbul, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main umbrella opposition group in exile, said Thursday it would not join talks in Geneva in mid-June in light of the "invasion of Iran and Hezbollah's militias to the Syrian territories."

It said the rejection came on the heels of the Syrian army's operation in the central city of al-Qussair.

George Sabra, the SNC's interim leader, slammed the scheduled negotiations proposed by Washington and Moscow as "chattering" in light of the "brutal actions Syria is witnessing."


However, Maher Morhej, leader of the Syria-based oppositional Youth Party, told Xinhua that the SNC's decision aimed to postpone the Geneva conference and to buy more time given the fact that they could not overcome their differences in Istanbul.

He said the SNC's differences were threatening its very existence and might cause its collapse.

The SNC has been convening in Istanbul since May 23 to widen its ranks, decide whether or not to take part in the Geneva conference, and elect a new leader. Yet, deep differences between liberals and Islamists occurred during the prolonged meeting apparently over the emergence of new opposition groups inside the coalition.

What deepens the conviction about the differences inside the SNC is the recent statement of the rebels Free Syrian Army (FSA), which said that the FSA wanted to occupy 50 percent of the SNC's seats, otherwise the rebel fighters would not recognize the body as a legitimate representative of Syrians.

In a statement issued Thursday, the FSA said "we knew that there are adjustments about the expansion of the National Coalition to include a number of politicians and a similar number of revolutionary forces operating on the homeland's ground."

Any attempt to circumvent or stall granting the FSA 50 percent of the SNC's seats would not succeed and "we tell you that the coalition's legitimacy will not be obtained ... and any attempt to circumvent would lead you to lose your legitimacy," the statement said.

Bassam Abu-Abdallah, head of a political research center in Damascus, charged that the exiled opposition had no political vision as it had always been betting on resolving the crisis in Syria by a foreign intervention "but their hopes have faded."

Speaking to Xinhua, Abdallah downplayed the SNC's rejection and said the "decision was not theirs in the first place."

He said the SNC's Western patrons would find a way to push it back to accept going to Geneva. "Geneva conference will be held," he stressed.


In an interview with the Lebanese al-Manar TV aired Thursday evening, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his administration would send an official delegation to the Geneva meeting.

"We will formally go to the (Geneva) conference as legitimate representatives of our people," Assad said.

He, however, played down the exiled opposition's weight, saying "when we go to the conference, we will be negotiating with the countries that stand behind the exiled opposition but not to negotiate with it (opposition)."

"When we ostensibly negotiate with the slave, we would be negotiating with the master substantively," he added.

The president meanwhile said that all of the decisions of the Geneva conference would be put for popular referendum.

The planned conference in Geneva is set to focus on the recent U.S.-Russian efforts to revive political options for resolving the long-standing stalemate in the conflict-stricken country.

It aims at reviving a previous meeting held in June 2012 in Geneva and sponsored also by the two major powers.

However, last year's conference, which called for immediate ceasefire between the Syrian fighting parties and launching inter- Syrian dialogue for a transitional government, was fruitless as it could not be implemented on the ground.

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