First Published: 2013-07-03

 

Syria opposition meets in Turkey to choose new leader

 

Under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, main political opposition will attempt to nominate new leader to unify fractured coalition.

 

Middle East Online

Sabra unfit to lead ‘future Syria’

ISTANBUL - Syria's main political opposition will attempt to nominate a new leader to unify a fractured coalition when members reconvene in Istanbul on Thursday, an official said.

Frontrunners include the secretary general of the Syrian National Coalition Mustafa al-Sabbagh, and Ahmad Assi Jarba, representing the faction of veteran secular dissident Michel Kilo.

Recognised by dozens of states and organisations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, the umbrella group is seeking a successor to interim president Georges Sabra, who may also seek nomination.

The opposition has been rudderless after the departure in May of Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib in protest at the world's "inaction" over Syria's civil war.

Coalition member Samir Nashar said: "The names of Ahmad Assi Jarba, representing Michel Kilo's faction, and Mustafa al-Sabbagh, representing the local councils, are being formally proposed as possible leaders for the coalition, but there could be surprises.

"Informally, the names of Burhan Ghalioun, Georges Sabra and Louay Safi are also being discussed. But of course we never know.

"If there is speedy agreement on the name of the new president, then I would still have some hope," Nashar said Wednesday.

"Of course the coalition's last meeting was very difficult, and if things get blocked, then I think there will be some serious consequences that will affect both the coalition and the way it is perceived, both by its friends and its enemies."

The nomination of a new chief had initially been mooted for the end of May but was postponed after eight days of talks stalled in the face of conflicting views on the future direction of the coalition.

Under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other regional powers, the opposition agreed in the May meeting to accept new groups under the umbrella of the coalition, lessening the influence of a strong Muslim Brotherhood faction backed by Doha.

The nomination of vice-presidents and other senior leaders was also on the agenda at the opposition group's general assembly, to be held over two days in the Turkish city.

The coalition will also likely discuss a future peace conference dubbed "Geneva 2" they have deliberated over attending, named after a meeting in the Swiss city a year ago that set up the transitional government but did not agree on the fate of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States and Russia were committed to holding a peace conference on Syria but that it would likely take place after August.

A Western diplomat said: "We hope the coalition will present a united front this time after the difficulties we saw in May. It is key given that events are not turning in their favour".

The assembly takes place after a series of setbacks for the rebels including the fall of Qusayr to Assad's forces, a former rebel bastion near the Lebanese border, aided by fighters from Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement.

Regime troops' current targets are Homs, in central Syria, and rebel bastions near the capital Damascus. UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday expressed fear for 2,500 "trapped" civilians in Homs city.

 

Assad, Russia press intense Aleppo assault

Saudi king unveils austerity drive

Clinton, Trump clash in fiery first presidential debate

Morocco finally adopts Amazigh as official language

Saudi petition seeks 'full' rights for women

Russia tries to strongarm US with Aleppo assault

Jordan vows crackdown on online incitement

Iran's Ahmadinejad says will not run for president

Boris Johnson dismisses Erdogan goat poem as 'trivia'

Turkey dismisses 87 spy agency staff over failed coup

Egypt recovers sunken boat, more bodies

Israel's Peres 'fighting for his life'

Bombings kill at least seventeen in Baghdad

Netanyahu chooses diplomacy in US election

Iran sets conditions for joining terror finance taskforce

Who is the destroyer of Timbuktu shrines?

Assad, Russia opt for 'total war' in Syria

Israel to charge Lieberman party officials in graft probe

Egypt detains owner of capsized migrant vessel

Countless bombings in Baghdad’s Karrada since 2003 US-led invasion

Moroccan gets death threat messages over cartoon posted by killed Jordanian

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic

Supplies dwindle, strikes intensify in Syria's Aleppo

Rebels, civilians quit Homs under deal with regime

Oman court closes national newspaper, jails three journalists

Israel-US consortium signs $10 billion gas deal with Jordan

Closure of Palestinian pages sparks Facebook censorship fears

Morocco’s main secular party takes on ruling Islamists

British FM on key visit to Turkey

Ten Turkish soldiers killed in PKK attacks

Jordanians protest over writer's murder

Moniz says Washington has met its side of Iran nuclear deal

Coalition prefers final Yemen settlement to 'short' truce

Deutsche Welle sues Turkey over confiscated interview

Palestinians condemn Trump vow on Jerusalem

Iran conservatives advise Ahmadinejad to stay out of election

Moscow slams 'unacceptable' UN statements on Syria

Yemeni forces kill suspected Qaeda chief

Bulgaria court error delays trial over Hezbollah bombing

Oil prices rise modestly ahead of OPEC meeting

Qatari official banned from AFC vote

Trump says he'll recognize Jerusalem as Israel's 'undivided' capital

US, Russia split on Syria’s Aleppo carnage

Death toll from Egypt migrant shipwreck jumps to 168