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.

 

US-backed forces capture key Syria oil field

Iraq PM arrives in Saudi to upgrade ties

UN ends Libya talks with no progress made

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party

Washington sees potential Hezbollah threat in the US

Cairo killing sparks security concerns among Copts

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign