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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  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    It has been widely commented in the US news media that Obama's nonsupportive stance towards the rebels in Syria is conditioned by the influence of the Israeli lobby that really prefers good old Assad to stay in power at whatever cost to the possible seizure of power by an anti-Israel opposition that they say would be allied to Iran. Thus the US is in no hurry to oust Assad despite anti-Assad talk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    244. Richard
    Assad's Govt. is a legitimate Govt. .. He is the President of Syria ... Please don't mix what is legitimate and what is ILLEGAL.
    There are people who don't agree with Cameron .. but it doesn't mean .... you know what I meant !

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Droximz (#241), I agree that Saudi backing of extremists is very worrying, but Russian and Iranian support for the Assad regime should stop too, or otherwise the dictatorship might just win.
    Fingalful (#236), Yes, an autocratic and/or very right wing might well replace Assad, as in Egypt etc. That, unfortunately, is youthful democracy in a conservative country. With luck, democracy might survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    @225. No AKM. Many Muslims claim that large areas of the planet are Muslim lands. It is not surprising, then, that when civil war breaks out it is Muslim versus Muslim.

    The majority of us in the west are sickened that different sects within the same religion are prepared to slaughter each other on a daily basis. It happened in Christianity and now it is happening in Islam.

    Do not blame the West.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    What also didn't make the news was that Russia issued a statement through the UN sec council where they condemned the carbombing of Damascus as a terrorist act (which it is) but the US of A voted it down as it was too biased (what's biased about calling a terrorist attack for what it is?).

    America has lost it's supposed goal and is now actively supporting terrorism against a sovereign state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    The only solution to the crisis in Syria .. is to Stop Arab nations . who are funding terrorists and smuggling weapons in Syria...

    Saudi has been promoting its extremist ideologies and have spent billions of dollars worldwide on it .. If we dont stop them now .. the whole world will be at the mercy of these terrorists!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Hi Alexander (#234), I wasn't there either in 2011 but I read widely and followed the conflict closely then. My point about dictatorships (Syria, N. Korea, Ghadaffi's Libya, Saudi Arabia, USSR etc.) is that they survive for decades by lies and violence. They have to. Democratic countries usually get sick of any of their leaders after about 12 years at most. Are dictators really more popular?

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    As long as propaganda machines like BBC,CNN only highlight atrocities of Assad regime, not the West backed oppositions, two sides will not stop until Syria one side wins or Syria gets destroyed. We need to understand neither US backed West nor Russia is acting to protect Syrian interest. They real culprits/murderers are major states outside Syria and their sponsored media. The rest are all puppets

  • Comment number 238.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    The SNC will boycott the talks because of the scud attacks? Pretty funny since they have been pushing the offensive in Aleppo the last couple of weeks and carbombed Damascus... Pretty hypocritical if you ask me.

    While both the government and the opposition blamed it on terrorists it is obvious it was Jabhat al Nusra which is allied WITH the opposition. They don't want peace talks!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    I daresay Assad does lie and murder. He maybe has to as bigger liars & murderers will only take his place. It's happened with the Lebannon, Egypt & Libya.There's no consent whoever rules. The Egyptians roited to get rid of Mubarak; now they're rioting because Morsi's more vicious. They didn't expect to get him. What!?
    And who's going to replace Assad? The Moslem Brotherhood like Morsi's lot will!

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Thanks, Skywatchman. This is a very complicated conflict. The West faces very difficult decisions and sometimes takes very bad ones. Sure, some Al-Qaeda types are taking advantage of the situation but surely we can imagine that ordinary Syrians might fight to end dictatorship. Ironically, by leaving Riyadh & Qatar to arm the rebels, the West is encouraging Islamic factions in the rebellion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    230. Richard
    "what are you saying about March-June 2011? "

    I was not there and had no reliable informants.

    "the main competing narrative about this period was that of the Assad regime."

    And you dismiss it out of hand, while believing the other side?

    " This is a hereditary military dictatorship which has held power with no popular consultation for four decades."

    No one contests that. So what?

  • Comment number 233.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    "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)."

    Absolutely right. Isn't it time for international community to Remove Saudi prices and Quatar from power and put them on trial for terrorism and crimes against humanity ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Wel done and said!

    To get rated +5 (@ 22:10) there must have been at least 15 people rating positively as most balanced comments on this subject have been instantly massively voted down.

    Your putting the record straight is greatly appreciated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Alexander #226- Well what are you saying about March-June 2011? As far as I remember, the main competing narrative about this period was that of the Assad regime. This is a hereditary military dictatorship which has held power with no popular consultation for four decades. Are these the kind of people who are likely to lie and murder? It goes with the job description I think.

  • Comment number 229.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    "Syrian opposition" is AlQuada supported by USA is accusing Russia for trying to stop violence (that AlQuada started with the help of USA with weapons from USA) . Isn't it ironic ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    C'mon people give the BBC some slack, they're only reporting what there master Willie Hague is telling them to report.


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