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.

Analysis

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approval, the whole package on offer - recognition, huge funds, possibly much-needed quality arms supplies - would be withdrawn and the opposition left more divided than ever.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

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 61.

    Good luck to FSA why are we giving them money we like killing people????

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 60.

    What's going on in Syria? Not sure, but Assad is still certainly indispensable to any solution.
    Syrian war is no doubt a bloody stale-mate now, 20 months down the blood shed, with both Govt. & rebels committing war crimes with impunity. They both have lost popular support. Still Assad's Govt has the power to restore order if outside lethal arms are stopped to rebels.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 59.

    How many Syrians elected these "representatives"?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 58.

    53.FirstReason
    No one is claiming that Assad's forces are humane, far from it. Despite the nice presentation by the spokesmen of the FSA the fact remains that the better armed and funded militias are those espousing clearly fundamentalist rhetoric. Of course the deaths of civilians is horrific but there is a bigger picture that needs to be discussed.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 57.

    "[The SNC] risks being heavily blamed for pursuing its own interests above those of the people"

    All the SNC is interested in is consolidating power for the Sunni's & is being backed heavily by the Saudis/Wahhabis. This is a religious war (surprise, surprise!), nothing more, nothing less. They have no interest for the people of Syria.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 56.

    The West need to tread with great caution.

    The Syria conflict is a proxy war between the Sunnis (Arab League) and the Shiites (Iran). So far, the Syrian Christians continue to sit on the fence or side with Assad. Unless the opposition can bring in the Christians and demonstrate that they are a democratic coalition, the West should not get into another messy and expensive civil war like Iraq.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 54.

    FSA is not terrorist.

    FSA crimes = Killing few men loyal to regime, attacking military buildings with car bombs(sic)

    Regime crimes = Raping/torturing children, shooting protesters, bombing cities by jet, artillery bombing other countries, kidnapping people, allowing shabiha to slit civilians throats open...

    Hundreds of videos, thousands of testimonies and documented evidence to back the above.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 53.

    I am Syrian unlike many people in comments and I have family in Syria.

    I know what's going on. Go ask the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Amlmost every single one will blame Assad and the regime.

    This conflict started in March 2011 after Syrian regime tortured kids for writing slogans. FSA was force in July of 2011.

    Car Bombing military outposts is terrorism? Define terrorism.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    Why is the middle east full of guns with gun and mine shops on every corner ? This just encourages a gun and violent culture with children growing up always seeing weapons everywhere. This sort of culture is terrible. Gun, bomb and land mine shops should be banned and such weapons should me made illegal to improve the middle east vastly. This international and local gun trade needs to stop !!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 51.

    Mark_x

    What a load of crap, Syria doesn't have an elected government!?! I'ts a inherited dictatorship which murderously kills it's own people way before this civil war took off. I've actually been to Syria and can confirm this.

    Syria maybe secular but it's still religiously oppressive.

    This has nothing to do with oil at all, Syria has only small reserves of oil. What a load of crap...

  • Comment number 50.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 49.

    Much to her chagrin, Hillary Clinton thought she might add a quick feather to her credentials before leaving office by engineering a quick uprising in Syria and getting rid of Assad regime as a means to isolate Iran. Well, the situation in Syria is not going to resolve by December 31st. Hope that the new Secretary of State will be able to clean up the mess left behind.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 48.

    It's hard for many westerners to support Assad because he is a murderous dictator. It seems normal to support those who want democracy but it's hard to support rebels if many could be extremists. Syria has chemical weapons probably supplied by Russia, the concern is who will control them. Iran claims it's nuclear achievements as it's own when Russia has helped Iran and Syria with their nuclear.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 47.

    I Think the BBC Is trying to remake star wars - the 'Rebels' against the 'Empire'

    Mugabe: "I AM YOUR FATHER!"

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 46.

    The British Empire introduced the concept of the Fertile Crescent, a political order in Iraq, Syria, Jordan much to the liking of the Empire. Many attempts to establish other political orders to control the Middle East failed. An Islamist Turkey, which the West supports, with Brotherhood controlled Egypt and Syria will Swallow Jordan in no time for an Islamist Fertile Crescent! Hooray hoorah!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 45.

    How our language is being stunted:
    being "gay" used to be being "happy"
    "regime" used to be government in charge with no bad connotations.
    "insurgent" is now a euphemism for terrorist.
    "foreign aid" now includes military support

    I now watch other news channels to balance the one-sided view of the BBC.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    Bit of a dillemma here.

    As Dr Kissinger said in the 1980s about the Iran-Iraq war, it would be better for both sides to lose.

    A bloodthirsty (and, frankly, evil) secular regime v a group that alongside worthy fighters contains Al Qaeda types and Islamist butchers.

    The West's role should be humanitarian (even if others will accuse us of crypto-colonialism).

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    Increased support to a fragmented opposition, under a NEW organization will prolong killings. When the US South revolted against the Fedral government, the much revered Abraham Lincoln put an end to that revolution at the cost of some half a million lives. How would we have felt if England had come to the rescue of the South? Assad is doing exactly what Lincoln did. Keeping the country together.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 42.

    There must be a way to get and keep peace in all countries and between all countries. Unless God has planned all this from the beginning. Why did God allow all these different religions to exist which just divide humanity into stupidity. All countries and people should stop allowing small disputes to escalate into any battles or wars, we are all human. If aliens exist, they are laughing at us !

 

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