Syria conflict: opposition coalition pulls out of talks

People gather at the site of what activists say was a Scud missile attack on Aleppo on 22 February 2013 Missile attacks on Aleppo have enraged the opposition

The main Syrian opposition alliance will not attend a series of meetings in protest at what it said was the international community's "shameful" failure to stop violence.

The National Coalition said it had decided not to attend a summit of the Friends of Syria in Rome next month.

It was also turning down invitations for talks in Washington and Moscow.

A statement singled out Russia for supporting and supplying weapons to President Bashar al-Assad.

"The international silence on the crimes committed every day against our people amounts to participating in two years of killings," the National Coalition said.


The main target of the National Coalition's decision to stay away from the meetings seems to have been its own leader's initiative saying he was willing to talk to the regime.

Other coalition leaders were startled by Moaz al-Khatib's move, and feared he might pursue it further especially in Moscow, which will be hosting the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, next week.

Now those trips are called off, and Mr Khatib's hands are further bound by a clause in the National Coalition's latest political position paper saying that any future initiatives must stem from the group's full executive - no more going it alone.

Some coalition leaders are worried that pursuing what they see as doomed diplomatic moves will make it even more out of touch with realities on the ground, where the running is being made increasingly by radical Islamist fighters.

They may also be hoping that their tough position will increase pressure on the West, and the US in particular, to do more to help the rebels win.

"The Russian leadership especially bears moral and political responsibility for supplying the regime with weapons," it added.

No compromise

The decision to boycott international diplomatic meetings in Syria effectively torpedoes the initiative launched by the National Coalition's leader Moaz al-Khatib, the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says.

Three weeks ago he announced that he was ready to meet Syrian government representatives to discuss an end to the violence.

The initiative was strongly backed by international powers, including Russia, and he was invited to Washington and Moscow. Now those visits will not take place.

The National Coalition will also boycott the Rome meeting of the mainly Western Friends of Syria group, which supports the opposition.

It is particularly enraged by the use of Russian-supplied Scud missiles to bombard rebel-held areas of Aleppo - Syria's second city.

"Hundreds of civilians have been killed by Scud missile strikes and Aleppo is being systematically destroyed," the National Coalition statement said.

The decision to pull out of talks has dismayed diplomats.

But opposition leaders are clearly worried that the coalition risks being discredited and losing touch with realities on the ground if it gets drawn into a diplomatic process involving compromise with a regime that shows no sign of readiness to step down, our correspondent adds.

In Syria on Saturday, the battle for control of Aleppo's international airport reportedly intensified.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, said the fighting between government forces and rebel fighters was focused on a section of motorway linking the airport to the city, which has been used by the military to transport troops and supplies.

The fighting comes a day after troops were accused of firing missiles into a rebel-held district in Aleppo's east, killing at least 31 people.

The UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, meanwhile described the car bomb attack on the ruling Baath Party's headquarters in Damascus on Thursday as a war crime. He said it left about 100 people dead.


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Syria conflict


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  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    222. Richard
    " Peaceful protests began in March 2011 and the regime escalated rapidly from police riots against them to tanks, snipers and torture centres. The protests remained peaceful until June, when army defectors began to fight back militarily."

    This is well-known version from one side. It would be interesting to see the version from another side alongside this one. Just to compare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    If this was Non-Muslims being killed by Assad, he would have been dead by now. Western hypocrisy again, only supports Anti-Muslims. West is now laughing because tens of thousands of Muslims are being killed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    " [blah-blah] mass murder committed by the Sunni against the Shia in Iraq and the Hazara in Pakistan. I have a suspicion you support those also." - HaroldGodwinson. And I said I supported *any* genocide where exactly again? No, but you have nothing to say about the oppression in Iraq of the Sunni by a Shia PM al-Maliki favored by (Shia majority) Iran?

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    There are two options:
    1. If the SNC took this decision to boycott the meetings by itself, so it will be the looser of international support.
    2. If some countries as US or Turkey or others pressed SCN to boycott the meetings, which means to oppose the initiative of Moscow for Syria creases solution, so SNC will be the looser of Syrian people support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    In answer to your question, Alan Jackson (#216 - 'so the opposition dont like the violence, didn't they start it?'), no they didn't. Peaceful protests began in March 2011 and the regime escalated rapidly from police riots against them to tanks, snipers and torture centres. The protests remained peaceful until June, when army defectors began to fight back militarily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    "As a supporter of genocide against the Alawites..". No I'm opposed to the Assad power base which is largely Alawite by all counts. Although the only actual "genocides" in Syria have been of Sunni populations. Of course you're remarkably silent on those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    The rebels posted a video showing a suicide bomber preparing for the Damascus attack, they fully take credit for the massive bomb. They want to eliminate secular government in Syria in favor of Sharia law. That's their agenda. Why does the USA want to have their finger prints on such a crime? Why does the FSA feel they should murder civilians? Biased news reports are finding few believers

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Why is BBC so pro-rebels?

    Please use Google to find out what FSA has been upto in Syria. They are concerned for the Syrians. They are only there to kill Syrians and spread hatred and extremism!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    I am so sick of the bias in the media. Here we applaud the rebels, a group of hard core terrorists, who just detonated a 7 ton suicide car bomb on a city street, near a government building (500 meters away), killing over a 100 civilians. Then while emergency crews are rescuing the wounded, they send another van to the scene with another bomb inside, luckily people disarmed 2nd bomb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    NATO has been directed by the UN not to get directly involved in the Syrian conflict; therefore, the United Nations seems to hold the cards because Russia and China who are on the security council seem to hold more weight in the United Nations than human life itself. Russia's interest in a Russian backed Syria stems from its continuous desire to base ships in the med. China's last ally is Russia!

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    so the opposition dont like the violence, didn't they start it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    My final thought in this is this: I believe EVERY top leader in UN Security Council should be send to the International Criminal Court after they finish their political career. This creates a guarantee that every leader of the UN Security Council respects human rights when they carry out their foreign policy. I hope the Syrian conflicts ends and the Syrian people get better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    What kind of a nightmare is this? The West are actually involved in this war behind the scenes. What the West wants is a compliant servile new thug. And then Syria can be looted and privatised like Iraq and Libya. The West does not care about human right or democracy. Who is next? Iran? Russia? Dangerous Orwellian times in which we live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Completely agree - but this will never happen while the unholy alliance between the US and the Saudi royal family continues.

    Excellent site for background and references:

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Four steps for any intervention: 1. Evidence. 2. Persuasion. 3. Action. 4. Aftermath. The evidence must be objective; whether it is related to war crimes or WMDs. If you can not persuade the UN Security Council then you will have no allies. When you do intervene avoid making the same mistakes made in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. After the war AVOID spoils of war; no oil drilling, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Afghanistan, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Mali, Pakistan, Syria....

    These are a few places where Arab Nations (mainly Saudi and Qatar) have been funding terrorists to spread their distorted version of Islam (Wahabism).

    It is high time that US, UK and other western nations take a step back and take action before it is too late and we end up fighting these THUGS ALL OVER THE WORLD!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Both sides are guilty of war crimes in Syria. The fact that the opposition will not give dialogue a glimmer of hope means the opposition is another Assad to be. Neither side has the overwhelming power to cancel the other out. Assad looses nothing, while the Syrian opposition has no sympathy of the ordinary Syrian by boycotting peace talks. Dialogue remains the best option to end this war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    All of you make this sound so simple, this is civial war between the Shias & the Sunnis. On one side you have Turkey, Qatar,Saudi Arabia that are pouring in arms and fighters from the Turkish border and the other side Iran & Russia.. Syrian rebels are detsroying town after town and looting everything they can find, some of the worst atrocities committed were by the rebels first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Why is the bbc so pro- 'rebel' 'freedom fighter' 'actitvist' ?

    Who's leaning on their journalists?
    Who's leaning on the british government?

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Very astute - it is a deep and abiding irony that Saudi Arabia actually funds most of those against whom the US are waging their "War on Terror".
    The Saudis only oppose al-Qaeda, with whom they agree on most fundamental issues, because al-Qaeda was founded to overthrow the corrupt Saudi monarchy.


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