Syria opposition bloc to boycott meetings over ‘silence’ on war

Demonstrators hold a giant opposition flag during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Bustan al-Qasr district in Aleppo February 22, 2013. (Reuters)

The United States must honor promises of support for democracy in Syria, opposition spokesman Walid al-Bunni said on Saturday after his National Coalition canceled visits to Rome, Moscow and Washington.

"Our visit to Washington is on hold until Washington takes a stance that is in accordance with U.S. statements on its support for democracy," Bunni told France 24's Arabic-language channel.

"The United States is a leading force in the world, as are France, Britain and the European Union. All these have been unable to stop a butcher from committing massacres against our people," he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The opposition National Coalition announced late on Friday that the bloc will be pulling out of a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome and scheduled talks in Russia and the United States.

The move, the opposition group said, was to protest the lack of international condemnation of the “crimes committed against the Syrian people.”

“The international silence on the crimes committed every day against our people amounts to participating in two years of killings,” the statement added.

It singled out Russia in particular over Moscow’s support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“Hundreds of defenseless civilians are being killed by Scud missiles and the destruction of Aleppo, the city of history and civilization, continues in a systematic manner,” it added.

“In protest against this shameful international position, the coalition leadership has decided to suspend its participation in the Rome meeting of the Friends of Syria.”

The meeting had been scheduled for an unspecified date next month.

“We hold the Russians leaders in particular ethically and politically responsible because they continue to support the (Damascus) regime with weapons,” the National Coalition added.

No visits

The statement also said the opposition coalition was turning down invitations to visit Washington and Moscow to protest what it described as international silence over destruction of the ancient city of Aleppo by Syrian missile strikes.

“Hundreds or civilians have been killed by Scud missile strikes. Aleppo, the city and the civilization, is being destroyed systematically,” the statement said.

“The Russian leadership especially bears moral and political responsibility for supplying the regime with weapons,” it added, referring to Moscow’s status as a leading ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The invitations had been extended to opposition coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib after he met the Russian and U.S. foreign ministers in Munich this month.

The invitations were made shortly after al-Khatib offered to negotiate Assad’s departure with members of the Syrian government who were not tainted by having participated in the crackdown on the 23-month-long revolt.

Rocket attacks on eastern districts of Aleppo, Syria’s industrial and commercial hub, killed at least 29 people on Friday and trapped a family of 10 in the ruins of their home, opposition activists in the city said.

On Tuesday activists said at least 20 people were killed when a large missile hit the rebel-held district of Jabal Badro, also in the east of the contested city.


Last Update: Saturday, 23 February 2013 KSA 16:06 - GMT 13:06