Syria conflict: opposition coalition pulls out of talks

People gather at the site of what activists say was a Scud missile attack on Aleppo on 22 February 2013 Missile attacks on Aleppo have enraged the opposition

The main Syrian opposition alliance will not attend a series of meetings in protest at what it said was the international community's "shameful" failure to stop violence.

The National Coalition said it had decided not to attend a summit of the Friends of Syria in Rome next month.

It was also turning down invitations for talks in Washington and Moscow.

A statement singled out Russia for supporting and supplying weapons to President Bashar al-Assad.

"The international silence on the crimes committed every day against our people amounts to participating in two years of killings," the National Coalition said.


The main target of the National Coalition's decision to stay away from the meetings seems to have been its own leader's initiative saying he was willing to talk to the regime.

Other coalition leaders were startled by Moaz al-Khatib's move, and feared he might pursue it further especially in Moscow, which will be hosting the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, next week.

Now those trips are called off, and Mr Khatib's hands are further bound by a clause in the National Coalition's latest political position paper saying that any future initiatives must stem from the group's full executive - no more going it alone.

Some coalition leaders are worried that pursuing what they see as doomed diplomatic moves will make it even more out of touch with realities on the ground, where the running is being made increasingly by radical Islamist fighters.

They may also be hoping that their tough position will increase pressure on the West, and the US in particular, to do more to help the rebels win.

"The Russian leadership especially bears moral and political responsibility for supplying the regime with weapons," it added.

No compromise

The decision to boycott international diplomatic meetings in Syria effectively torpedoes the initiative launched by the National Coalition's leader Moaz al-Khatib, the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says.

Three weeks ago he announced that he was ready to meet Syrian government representatives to discuss an end to the violence.

The initiative was strongly backed by international powers, including Russia, and he was invited to Washington and Moscow. Now those visits will not take place.

The National Coalition will also boycott the Rome meeting of the mainly Western Friends of Syria group, which supports the opposition.

It is particularly enraged by the use of Russian-supplied Scud missiles to bombard rebel-held areas of Aleppo - Syria's second city.

"Hundreds of civilians have been killed by Scud missile strikes and Aleppo is being systematically destroyed," the National Coalition statement said.

The decision to pull out of talks has dismayed diplomats.

But opposition leaders are clearly worried that the coalition risks being discredited and losing touch with realities on the ground if it gets drawn into a diplomatic process involving compromise with a regime that shows no sign of readiness to step down, our correspondent adds.

In Syria on Saturday, the battle for control of Aleppo's international airport reportedly intensified.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, said the fighting between government forces and rebel fighters was focused on a section of motorway linking the airport to the city, which has been used by the military to transport troops and supplies.

The fighting comes a day after troops were accused of firing missiles into a rebel-held district in Aleppo's east, killing at least 31 people.

The UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, meanwhile described the car bomb attack on the ruling Baath Party's headquarters in Damascus on Thursday as a war crime. He said it left about 100 people dead.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    261, 265 Alexander
    Democracy's not perfect & we should try to improve it. I'd prefer to have some voice than be oppressed by tough guys though.
    You're right. The advance of democracy is 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Russia's a disaster and I'm a bit pessimistic about the Arab revolutions. However Central Europe, Latin America and Maritime East Asia have done pretty well. Maybe China is ready.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    257. Richard
    "Assad's legitimacy is that of a medieval king. Over half the world's people now elect governments, so hopefully that thuggish medieval politics can ultimately be relegated to terrorist and mafia bands."

    But then you want those societies to perform a Great Leap (just as Mao wanted for China, only in different direction) - skipping decades of internal development?

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    259 juw
    I don't work for the US govt. I think the Bush invasion of Iraq, Israel's attacks on Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008-9) were brutal, wrong and, in the longer or shorter term, stupid. World politics isn't just a battle between the US and the good guys and Syria is very complicated. What I'm against is violence and dictatorship. Democracy isn't perfect, but it beats rule by violence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Why should the opposition coalition feel compelled to speak with those parties whose support of the Assad government that has destroyed parts of the country and killed civilians who were non-combatants? I see no reason whatever. All the international community has done is to permit Moscow to sell Assad the firepower to stay in power at the expense of the Syrian people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    If President Assad is such a lovely man why is there a Civil War in Syria?


Comments 5 of 266


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