NCC at the Station: Shall we take the train to Geneva?

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Louay Safi (R), spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition, speaks to journalists during the Syrian peace talks at the United Nations headquarters on February 11, 2014 in Geneva. (Photo: AFP-Phillipe Desmazes)

By: Elie Hanna

Published Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change in Syria (NCC) seems to have mastered the waiting game, waiting for the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). Ever since the Syrian National Council was "dissolved" and a broad meeting of the Syrian opposition in Cairo (May 2012) and throughout the Doha meetings, which gave birth to the coalition, the NCC would be mentioned as a participant of sorts in those meetings.

Today, the NCC is waiting for the meeting of the SNC's political committee to decide on two proposals; one political and the other organizational, which were agreed upon in a meeting in Cairo between the NCC General Coordinator Hassan Abdul-Azim and the head of the SNC, Ahmad al-Jarba.

If the proposals are passed, the NCC would be participating on its own terms in the next round of talks at Geneva II. Now more than ever, its leaders have been giving the impression that they will hop on the Geneva train. Although they missed yesterday's stop, there are other stops and as they claim, the road is long.

A senior source at the NCC confirms the presence of an international decision "for the NCC to join the Geneva process." Observers note that the "expansion of the opposition's delegation" is for various reasons, starting with the delegation's inadequacy and its weak representation.

For example, Hadi al-Bahra, who headed the opposition's negotiating team in one of the first round's sessions, gained his experience to face Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, from selling cars in Saudi Arabia.

According to NCC sources, who followed up on the most recent meeting in Cairo, an agreement was reached for the NCC to be represented by five seats, three at the main negotiating table and two consultative seats. The question of who will be representing the NCC took up an important part of its executive office meeting on Sunday, which lasted five hours.

The so called "internal opposition" is optimistic. They deliberated the question of giving one seat to a militia group, meaning the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Obstacles and vetoes were removed, according to a senior official. There is no veto against the head of the NCC in the diaspora, Haytham Manna, or the head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Saleh Muslim, he added.

Sources from the SNC met this "positivity" from the NCC with a similar position, except with the "figures who have a problem with the revolution." The sources did not mention the names of the individuals, but they are Haytham Manna and Saleh Muslim.

Hisham Mroue, a member of the coalition's political committee, confirms the veto of his colleague, "Figures like Hassan Abdul-Azim and NCC member Aref Dalila have kept their places in efforts to expand the Coalition's delegation, despite Egyptian and Western efforts to get the NCC to choose its own representatives.”

The Facebook page of the media office president in the NCC, Munther Khaddam, is rife with critics and gloaters. "The NCC's repeated disappointments with the coalition is a cause for pity and sorrow," someone comments to Khaddam's criticism of "the coalition leadership's disregard of all the understandings in Cairo."

Dependency on international decisions and the NCC's reliance on their "friends" to impose its presence in Geneva carry a degree of pragmatism. If it was Jarba's decision, he would never have shook Abdul-Azim's hand in his life.

The NCC is promoting that the meeting was "imposed" on the coalition. Yet this is the same "game of nations," which had kept the "internal opposition" away from the international scene. In the event that the NCC participates in the international peace conference, the same international game, which led to its embarrassment in front of its Syrian supporters, would be the only way for "Manna and co." to be present in the corridors of "peaceful settlement hotels."

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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