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.


New report accuses Syria of chemical attack in Qmenas village

For second day, Iraq forces clash with ISIS in Kirkuk

Battles rage in Yemen despite three-day truce

Turkey PM warns EU: Turkey has alternatives!

Food crisis reaching critical levels north of South Sudan

Turkey hits Kurdish group in Syria again

Kremlin aims to 'liberate' Syria with Assad in power

Egypt court upholds 20-year sentence for Morsi

Islamic Jihad stages show of force in Gaza

UN says 'crimes' in Aleppo are 'of historic proportions'

IS sniper kills Iraqi journalist in Kirkuk

US official says coalition should target IS in Raqa after Mosul

Moscow extends Aleppo ceasefire

Italy PM says officials should have voted against UNESCO Jerusalem resolution

Syrian ‘Toy Smuggler’ accused of fraud

UN: IS may use civilians as human shields in Mosul

Armed men attack refugee boat off Libya

US says will work with Turkey to deal IS 'lasting defeat'

Moscow ‘highly concerned’ at jihadists’ refusal to leave Aleppo

Four Palestinians arrested by their security forces for settlement visit

Mauritania president says no change to two-term limit

UN delays Aleppo evacuations due to lack of security assurances

Oman denies reports of arms smuggling to Yemen

Israel looking to buy three more German submarines

83 migrants rescued off Cyprus

Under pressure in Mosul, IS fighters attack Kirkuk

Air strikes hit Yemen rebels despite ceasefire

US officials: Iran boosting arms sales to Huthis via Oman

Iraq forces make gains against IS near Mosul

Arab coalition accuses Yemen rebels of breaching truce

Italian PM blocks EU sanctions threat against Russia over Aleppo

Pentagon chief in Turkey for talks on tensions with Iraq

Israeli occupation troops kill Palestinian teenager

Iraqis flee IS-held Mosul for war-torn Syria

Five years after his death, Kadhafi's 'Green Book' is ridiculed in Libya

Iraq issues warrant for former governor of Mosul

EU leaders threaten sanctions against Assad allies

Syria army urges residents to evacuate Aleppo during ceasefire

British warships shadow Syria-bound Russian naval force

Turkey unexpectedly keeps interest rate steady

British PM urges united EU response to Russia over Syria 'atrocities'

UN gets ‘green light’ from all parties for Aleppo evacuations

Iran president: we must be hospitable to foreign businessmen

British Al-Jazeera reporter freed in Somalia

Turkish planes raid US-backed Kurdish militias