Syria National Council to decide on unity leadership

Syrian dissident Riad Seif, centre, in Doha, 6 November 2012 Syrian dissident Riad Seif said progress had been made in Doha

The Syrian National Council is facing a key decision on whether to join other groups in a more unified opposition.

The proposed Syrian National Initiative aims to merge the disparate military and political groups to form a credible alternative to the Assad government.

Western and Gulf states have been pushing for such a body, which would act as a conduit for humanitarian - and possibly military - aid.

Meanwhile, the UN said 11,000 Syrians have fled in the past 24 hours.

UN officials meeting in Geneva said the increased rate of refugees reflected the deteriorating situation in Syria.

Among those fleeing, 9,000 went to Turkey, bringing the total number of Syrians there to 120,000.

Turkish news agency Anatolia said dozens of defecting Syrian army officers, including two generals and 11 colonels, had arrived in Turkey on Friday.

Aid officials at the Geneva meeting warned that 2.5 million Syrians now need humanitarian aid.

The Damascus government has strictly limited the presence of foreign aid agencies.


Although the devil may prove to be in the detail, the mood among many SNC members seems to be one of grudging admission that they have to go along with the strongly Western-backed initiative aimed at producing a unified new opposition leadership in which the SNC itself would not enjoy a majority role.

If the SNC withholds approval, the whole package on offer - recognition, huge funds, possibly much-needed quality arms supplies - would be withdrawn and the opposition left more divided than ever.

One possibility is that the SNC may go back with a qualified Yes, but seek assurances for its own continuing role as a distinct entity and guarantees that Western promises would be kept.

Assuming the package is agreed, the next step would be the formation of a 60-person unified political leadership, in which the SNC (under the current proposal) would be given 22 out of 60 seats, with provincial councils taking another 14, and the others allocated mainly to activists from inside the country.

That would be followed in short order by a Friends of Syria meeting in Morocco, at which the new leadership would obtain formal recognition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syria people, and pledges of massive funds to administer the "liberated" areas.

Activists estimate that more than 35,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March last year.

'Failure forbidden'

The opposition meeting, in the Qatari capital Doha, is taking place under the auspices of the Arab League, with Western powers from the international Friends of Syria group also attending.

So far Syrian National Council, itself an umbrella group, has been the most prominent opposition in the uprising, but has failed to produce a united front.

It has also been criticised for the fact its members are largely based outside Syria.

The US has said it wants to set up a broader opposition group in which the SNC's influence is diluted.

The Syrian National Initiative, proposed by prominent dissident Riad Seif, would replace the council, bringing together Syria's exiled and internal opposition and channelling foreign aid.

But the BBC's Jim Muir, in Doha, says the SNC is wary of signing up as a minority element in a new leadership without guarantees that the new body will be given enough support needed to defeat the regime.

The SNC, which has been holding its own talks in Doha, will elect a new executive and president on Friday, before deciding whether to back the initiative.

If it does not, says our correspondent, it risks being heavily blamed for pursuing its own interests above those of the people.

Aims of the Syrian National Initiative

  • To unite the opposition under one leadership to "end Syrians' suffering and transition Syria to a democratic, civil, pluralistic, strong and stable state"
  • To support and communicate with internal opposition
  • To work to establish finances, support the Free Syrian Army, administer "liberated areas", plan for a political transition and secure international recognition
  • To set up a Supreme Military Council, judicial committee, transitional government and Initiative Body made up of representatives from political groups, local councils and revolutionary forces

Such a move would open a stark rift in the opposition, he adds, especially between "insiders" who are strongly represented in the new leadership plan, and those who have been in exile for years.

Mr Seif said opposition leaders had made progress on the first day of talks, and that some SNC members had indicated their acceptance of a plan to set up a new leadership group composed of 60 members.

Veteran opposition figure Haytham al-Maleh told AFP news agency: "We hope we can reach an agreement [on Friday] after the Syrian National Council has succeeded in selecting a new leadership."

Burhan Ghalioun, ex-leader of the SNC outside Syria, said the atmosphere was "positive" and that failure was "forbidden".

The meeting on aid access in Geneva comes after the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the organisation could not cope with Syria's growing needs.

There are currently "a lot of blank spots", and an unknown number of people were not getting access to the aid they needed, said Peter Maurer.

The ICRC has not been able to get to certain parts of the country, he added, giving as an example the city of Aleppo, which has been badly hit by violence in recent months.


More on This Story

Syria's war War in Syria


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    These 'opposition' groups are in the main supporters of Sunni Muslims and the Muslim Brotherhood. How pretentious to say they want to make Syria a pluralistic, democratic country. Democracy and Sunni Muslims are not compatible. How many Christians, Shia muslims or Alawites are fighting with the rebels... answer.. None. The current Syrian Government is secular - the rebels want a theocracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The IRA are terroists while the Syrians are freedom fighters?

    Who actually decides how they are labelled?

    Media maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    37000 have been killed and a new Syrian National Initiative, managed and funded by:
    1. Islamist Qatar?
    2. Islamist Saudi Arabia?
    3. Islamist Turkey?
    Who are we kidding? If Assad is defeated, Islamists will be in charge.
    Secularists with the help of the West should coordinate with Assad to kick out the Islamists and force a secular order. Returning Golan may help the process and end the killings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    What business is it of the USA or UK who rules in Syria. Are the politicians totally stupid: Look what happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt... The list goes on. No stable governments and terrible conditions for the people.
    The supply of support, by the West, for the rebels(read terrorists), is aggravating the situation, encouraging the rebels to persist hoping for military intervention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    How amusing it is watching our western news agencies desperately trying to convince us that the syrian terrorists aren't terrorists.

    Since the interenet it's become so difficult to control the flow of information we recieve. So visibly desperate are their attempts to convince us that the "rebels" are the "goodies".

    Give it up, you've lost. You can't control what we think anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    How very gracious of the United States, but it is not stopping its non-democratic associates in the Gulf from funding and arming militant militias. If an extremist grouping manages to gain control should Assad and co fall then it will become a major headache for the West.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    There is a danger that Syria could end up as another Iraq.
    Certainly Assad is a nasty bit of work. But at least he is a secular nasty bit of work. Religious minorities who are Syrian citizens will not survive long when Assad is thrown out or killed. This is what happened in Iraq soon after the West naively invaded & most religious minorities were forced to live as refugees from their own country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    @30. pommes frites

    It looks like the Syrian people have some coalition building to do even more so than the misanthropes here in the U.S.A. That would be their problem then, not ours. Perhaps Obama recognizes this, and that is why we are not going to "meddle in their internal affairs."

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Relentless - yep, the internet has certainly cut down on lies and false truths...

    Oh no, that's right...

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    23 jurassicflood - Similarly, has our government even acknowledged the constant Islamic terrorist attacks in Nigeria? Maybe no one wants to be seen condemning an Islamic fundamentalist group that is attacking a secular state... would perhaps seem a bit hypocritical.
    Nigeria already buys arms off us anyway, so no need to try and change things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    If there is anyone to be ousted it should be this political party and it's back office power hungry Elite feeding on wars and selling arms.

    Their was a time when they could lie to people the BBC could just print their newspapers adding their false truths to this but Internet has sorted that out. Hence why we already have some Politicians trying to censor the internet with the excuse of piracy !

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    And abandon the Christians, Druze and his onw Alwaites to the uncertain mercies of the Salafist/Wahabi's? yeah right Assad and his cabal are really going to do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Dear Mr Assad,

    If one Mitt Romney can lose an election, you can, too. He doesn't need the army, air force, and guns to step aside. You can graciously fade away, too. About time after more than twenty years in power, just like your Dad?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    If the comments here are anythinhg to go on, it looks as if the bbc should realise that they're not getting their twisted, one sided journalism across.

    People are fed up with the propaganda, the hypocrisy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I feel like a stuck record on this.
    I bet you won't see anything properly reported in the national media unless it supports the Govt view.
    What is DC going to do about the UK rent-a-jihadist's going out there with the express intention of killing people to turn Syria into a fndamentalist Muslim state. Barbaric. Will they be allowed to come back to the UK to try and do the same?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The Syrian opposition need international backing and will have to make the compromises to get it. Otherwise we may as well nuke the place and put them out of their misery because there is no other solution that will bring the suffering to an end. We are certainly not going to let one rich country flood it with advanced weapons in the hands of jihads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I guess Iraq and Libya weren't enough.

    Mr. Obama, now that you have four more years, please focus on the economy and stop messing things up in the Middle East.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    We talk and point fingers at different peoples across the globe, saying what 'x' is doing is wrong. It seems we seek to impose Western ethnocentric values on cultures through Human Rights. The influence of 'foreign' powers in Syria should be humanitarian aid, to protect Human Life, as was the original concept of HR laws of war. Is the liberal concept of universal human rights the new imperialism?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Mugabe is still in power despite the atrocities that take place every day. As long as arms dealers and mercenaries have a say, the conflicts all over the world will continue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Yeah it is pretty clear what idea of justice the militant Sunni militias are espousing... "The Christians to Beirut, the Alawites to the grave". As much as it pains me to say this it would be better to retain the Baathist goverment than take the chance on a bearded Salafist Mullah calling the shots in Damascus.


Page 5 of 7


More Middle East stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.