The Syrian National Coalition has refused the resignation of its leader Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the opposition bloc said in a statement released hours after he announced he was quitting.
Neither the Coalition’s presidential office nor its general assembly has accepted Khatib’s resignation. “They are asking Mr Moaz al-Khatib to go back to his work as the president of the Coalition,” the statement said.
In a surprise move, Khatib announced his resignation on Sunday.
“I announce my resignation from the National Coalition, so that I can work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution,” Khatib said in a statement published on Sunday on his Facebook page.
“I had promised the great Syrian people and promised God that I would resign if matters reached some red lines,” he said in the statement. He did not explain what had prompted his resignation.
The SNC is a dissident group recognized by dozens of states and organizations as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
The surprise resignation comes just days after the first election in Istanbul of a rebel prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, and just over two years on from the outbreak of a popular revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
"For the past two years, we have been slaughtered by an unprecedentedly vicious regime, while the world has looked on," Khatib said.
"All the destruction of Syria's infrastructure, the detention of tens of thousands of people, the forced flight of hundreds of thousands and other forms of suffering have been insufficient for the international community to take a decision to allow the people to defend themselves," he added.
The news came just after it was announced that Syrian National Coalition has been invited to the Arab summit this week, bringing the rebels closer to filling Syria’s seat in the Arab League, the group’s Qatar envoy said Sunday.
The invitation was revealed as differences over the participation of the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the summit emerged during a ministerial preparatory meeting on Sunday.
“The coalition has received an official invitation to attend the Arab summit,” said Nizar al-Haraki, who is the group’s envoy in Qatar.
He said that Khatib and the newly elected rebel interim premier Ghassan Hitto are expected to arrive soon in Doha. Khatib was to later decide on who fills in Syria’s seat.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told fellow ministers that he “looked forward” to the participation of Khatib and Hitto in the summit as per an Arab League announcement earlier this month.
The league on March 6 called on the coalition “to form an executive body to take up Syria’s seat” and attend the summit which opens on Tuesday.
The opposition alliance has begun steps to form an executive body to administer rebel-held territory inside Syria, electing Hitto at a meeting in Turkey earlier this week.
But Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari reiterated Baghdad’s reservations over recognising the opposition as representatives of the Syrian people in the league.
“We have expressed reservations... for legal reasons,” he said at the ministerial meeting.
In addition to Iraq, Algeria too has expressed reservations, while Lebanon distanced itself from measures against neighboring Syria.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 after Damascus rejected a peace plan calling for an end to the violence but demanding that Assad step down.
The bloc also imposed a raft of other sanctions, including suspending trade with the government, freezing its bank accounts abroad, and suspending air links.