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 266.

    261, 265 Alexander
    Democracy's not perfect & we should try to improve it. I'd prefer to have some voice than be oppressed by tough guys though.
    You're right. The advance of democracy is 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Russia's a disaster and I'm a bit pessimistic about the Arab revolutions. However Central Europe, Latin America and Maritime East Asia have done pretty well. Maybe China is ready.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    257. Richard
    "Assad's legitimacy is that of a medieval king. Over half the world's people now elect governments, so hopefully that thuggish medieval politics can ultimately be relegated to terrorist and mafia bands."

    But then you want those societies to perform a Great Leap (just as Mao wanted for China, only in different direction) - skipping decades of internal development?

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    259 juw
    I don't work for the US govt. I think the Bush invasion of Iraq, Israel's attacks on Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008-9) were brutal, wrong and, in the longer or shorter term, stupid. World politics isn't just a battle between the US and the good guys and Syria is very complicated. What I'm against is violence and dictatorship. Democracy isn't perfect, but it beats rule by violence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Why should the opposition coalition feel compelled to speak with those parties whose support of the Assad government that has destroyed parts of the country and killed civilians who were non-combatants? I see no reason whatever. All the international community has done is to permit Moscow to sell Assad the firepower to stay in power at the expense of the Syrian people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    If President Assad is such a lovely man why is there a Civil War in Syria?

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    252. Richard
    "I think your key term is that dictatorships are 'sometimes' more popular. I don't know where you're from, but I ask you, would/do you like your vote?"

    Well, although I still keep my vote as responsible one, I don't believe in its value. Too many false votes - ignorant, irresponsible, easily bribed are now in the bag. There are signs that maybe soon 16-teens will vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    256 Yet
    I answered in #252. It's nothing to do with Communism, whose dictatorships have ranged from some of the least bad (Cuba, present-day China) to some of history's direst tyrannies (Stalin, Khmer Rouge). I'd hate to live under even the best of them though. My guess is that the Kim monarchy would not survive repeated fair elections and a free press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    @Richard, do you work for the US government? Your comments are straight out of their war mongering press releases.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    It seems unfortunate that the BBC's reporting of events in Syria has turned biased and now tends to reflect their own government's political sentiments.Reporters can influence the toppling of regimes by their subtle use of vocabulary, figures of speech, sentence structures, and 'opinions'. A more independent approach to the current crisis would be appreciated unless you are 'only obeying orders'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    254 Alexander
    Exactly! As you say, Assad's legitimacy is that of a medieval king. Over half the world's people now elect governments, so hopefully that thuggish medieval politics can ultimately be relegated to terrorist and mafia bands. Electorates make some appalling choices, especially in new democracies, but I'll take my chances with people who come to power by persuasion rather than violence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    248. Alexander

    I'm kind of curious about that, too. Why isn't China in the list? Is it because that China is ruled by the communist party?

    Through brainwashing. North Korean people LOVE their leader, for instance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    250 Droximz
    Sure, but the proper way didn't work. Assad brutally attacked the peaceful protesters, who admirably suffered this for 4 months before fighting back. Russia and China stopped the UN from even criticising him, not to mention organising elections, and Russia and Iran shipped in weapons to prop up the regime. It's horrible, but when dictatorships don't give up (USSR, SA), it can happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    249. Richard
    "In what sense is Assad's govt. legitimate?"

    At least in the same sense as many English kings, from William Rufus and Henry I. Maybe even slightly more than that.

    "Holding an election after his overthrow will make the new regime much more legitimate."

    In the eyes of western democratic societies - maybe. But even that is not for sure. After all, Hitler won elections, you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    One wonders what the UN is doing, in situations like this where no side seems to want to give up and the people, innocent people become victims the UN has the moral authority to intervene using independent and neutral states to bring back law and order.
    Honestly if so much violence can persist and no one can do anything the UN has lost its purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    240. Alexander
    Yes, the CCP, Castros and Saudi monarchy might well win elections. Not only do they win hearts and minds, but they seem to have some genuine interest in their people's welfare. Democracies also elect some dreadful crooks. However I think your key term is that dictatorships are 'sometimes' more popular. I don't know where you're from, but I ask you, would/do you like your vote?

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    The reason rebels or whatever you like to call them have joined the fight is because there's a vacuum there from the world doing nothing!!! Now if some undesirables get in among the fight that's again because the world has done nothing!!! And all the while, innocent children, women & menfolk are dying, Why!!! Because the world does nothing!!! No peace will happen till the world has a conscience!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    249. Richard
    I agree with you. But there is a proper way to do that. Peaceful protests, election held under UN etc etc.
    There is no justification for foreign countries to start sending terrorist and weapons just because Assad din't agree with them.
    I personally know people from Syria and I wont say that it was the best place to live, but it was much better and peaceful than what it is today!

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Hi Droximz. In what sense is Assad's govt. legitimate? He inherited the country from his dad, who took it over by military coups in 1966 and 1970. He won his throne by violence, keeps it by daily violence and ousting him by violence will be no less legitimate than his own rule. Holding an election after his overthrow will make the new regime much more legitimate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    240. Richard
    "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. "

    Not only that, though. There are also "ingrained beliefs and habits of society", upon which they rely. Curiously, you did not include China in your list..

    "Are dictators really more popular?"

    Sometimes yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Western support for rebels is the interest of americans in the region. they shed crocodile tears about people and democracy. they helped and helping dictetors tyrants and terrorist when its good for them.
    world will be better place for people the day americambs stop being selfish


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