Rebels in crisis as int’l pressure mounts

Rebels in crisis as int’l pressure mounts

Rebels in crisis as int’l pressure mounts

President of the Syrian National Council George Sabra (C) speaks with other members during a break. AFP photo

With international pressure mounting regarding their participation in an upcoming peace conference, the divided Syrian opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has fallen into crisis as the group appeared no closer to deciding a joint approach after five days of talks which were originally scheduled for three days.

There was squabbling over a vote early yesterday, which brought eight new members into the Syrian opposition umbrella group. The voting results formalized the entry into the coalition of veteran dissident Michel Kilo, who had initially proposed a list of 22 candidates.

Though Kilo would bring in several new women and members of Syria’s religious minorities, opponents say his entry will shrink the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and force Saudi control on the coalition.

Its Western backers have pressured the coalition to resolve its divisions and expand to include more liberals to counter domination by Islamists. The disarray in the coalition may also strengthen al-Assad’s hand ahead of an international peace conference backed by the United States and Russia, planned to be held in Geneva in the coming weeks. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were due to meet in Paris late yesterday to discuss the planned conference.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem upped the ante on May 26, saying his government would attend a new Geneva conference, terming it a “good opportunity for a political solution.” The opposition insists that, after more than two years of devastation, it will not negotiate unless al-Assad quits.