Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Geneva II: "Which opposition?"

"...True, US-Russian rapprochement is still in its infancy and may collapse at the first fork in the road, but international attitudes suggest we may be witnessing an unprecedented breakthrough.
No sooner had Kerry boarded his plane out of Russia did statements welcoming the outcome of his visit start to pour in from NATO countries. True, US-Russian rapprochement is still in its infancy and may collapse at the first fork in the road, but international attitudes suggest we may be witnessing an unprecedented breakthrough.
But Russia Today quoted a Russian official as saying that an international conference on Syria was unlikely to be held by the end of May. The source also said that there were “many differences [over] who can take part in this format, who is legitimate and who is not legitimate.”
The source went on to say, “It's obvious that this can't be done without representatives of the opposition, but the question is, which opposition? We believe that there is no clearly defined body with which negotiations could be held so that commitments would then be carried out.”
The Syrian ‘Oppositions’
One thing the Russian official’s statement does expose is the condition of the Syrian ‘oppositions’ today. Indeed, everyone in the ranks of the opposition has adopted the new international accord as a central item on their agendas without consulting anyone else.
Every element in the opposition is trying to gather the largest possible number of dissident parties and figures to put together a broad bloc that can snatch a seat. On Sunday, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) completed two days of deliberations to this very end prior to the meeting of its general assembly scheduled for May 23 in Istanbul.
Three key issues occupy the SNC agenda: preparing to elect a successor to Moaz al-Khatib, along with a new leadership council; the interim government which Ghassan Hitto failed to form; and expanding the SNC to bring in new members. Participation in the proposed Geneva II was also discussed as an urgent item, but the attendees agreed to discuss it further at the next meeting.
A member of the SNC political council told Al-Akhbar that efforts to expand revolved around admitting eight new members, known as Michel Kilo’s bloc. If that happens, the eight, who had suspended their membership, would join the nine other figures aligned with Kilo that had decided to remain in the SNC.
The source understands the impact this would have, and said this would restore balance in the SNC, which is now dominated by Qatar’s allies through the Muslim Brotherhood and Mustafa al-Sabbagh’s wing.
The presidency of the SNC itself would also be affected. According to the same Syrian opposition leader, Burhan Ghalioun, former president of the SNC’s forerunner the Syrian National Council, has a good chance to be elected to the post as he enjoys unanimous support from various segments of the SNC.
At the same time, the source said, new names are being discussed to replace Hitto (who was appointed on 18 March 2013). Always according to the source, there was no consensus when Hitto was voted in.
The time allocated for Hitto to form an interim government has now expired, the SNC member maintained, adding that Ahmad Tohme, who served as secretary of the National Council in the Damascus Declaration back in 2005, is being touted as a possible candidate.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Khaled Nasser, another member of the SNC political council, said that his group was in the process of rearranging their “cards,” adding that Geneva II has put the issue of the interim government on the backburner for now.
One SNC member who recently met with the US ambassador in Syria Robert Ford said that the US diplomat told the Syrian opposition that Washington does not favor direct military intervention in Syria. Ford, he added, said that the US wants to give peace a chance instead, something that is now on the table for those who will meet at the planned conference....."

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