Syria’s main opposition postpones internal meetings

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Syria’s main opposition group has postponed internal meetings to early November as it faces international pressure to attend peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a member told AFP Monday.

“Our political committee and general assembly meetings in Istanbul have been postponed till the start of November,” said National Coalition member Samir Nashar.

Originally set for this week, the group had aimed to discuss and reach a common position on whether the opposition will attend a mooted international peace conference dubbed Geneva II.

But a conference in London on Tuesday of the Friends of Syria countries that support the revolt against Assad prompted the Coalition to postpone its own meetings in Turkey.

“It didn’t make much sense for the political committee to meet without the presence of the presidential committee” led by Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba, said Nashar.

Jarba will attend the London meeting, during which the Friends of Syria aim to reach an agreement on the framework of the Geneva II talks.

The Coalition is deeply divided over Geneva II, with a key opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council (SNC), refusing any talks with the regime unless President Bashar al-Assad resigns.

Coalition and SNC member Nashar said there was “international pressure” on the bloc to change its position.

But, added Nashar, “I still don’t see a light at the end of Geneva II, in its current framework.

“At the moment, part of the Coalition is willing to go to Geneva II and the other just isn’t.”

The opposition has long demanded that any talks lead to Assad stepping down, but the regime has insisted his exit is not on the table.

While the United States supports Syria’s revolt, Russia is a staunch backer of the regime and its refusal to attend talks that would demand Assad’s resignation.

Another Coalition source who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity meanwhile said that as things stand at the moment, “all this talk is theoretical. No one’s actually been invited to Geneva II yet. No one has spelled out the conditions.”

He also said he agreed with international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who said Sunday that “the conference will not convene without a credible opposition representing an important segment of the Syrian people opposed” to Assad.

“That’s a strong statement and proves the world knows that unless the opposition is well represented, there’s no point in holding these talks,” said the Coalition source.

“And to think that [Coalition chief] Jarba could represent the Syrian opposition alone would be ridiculous.”