Syrian rebels to boycott opposition summit
Published Monday, July 2, 2012
Syria-based rebel fighters and activists said they would boycott an opposition meeting in Cairo on Monday, denouncing it as a "conspiracy" that served the policy goals of Damascus allies Moscow and Tehran.
The two-day meeting, to be attended by the main exiled opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council (SNC), and other smaller groups, is intended to forge a common vision for a political transition in Syria after 16 months of bloodshed.
"We refuse all kinds of dialogue and negotiation with the killer gangs...and we will not allow anyone to impose on Syria and its people the Russian and Iranian agendas," said a statement signed by one of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions and "independent" activists.
The signatories criticized the agenda of the Cairo talks for "rejecting the idea of a foreign military intervention to save the people...and ignoring the question of buffer zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo and the arming of rebel fighters."
The boycott shows that deep rifts within the opposition have still yet to be resolved, with serious disagreements over how to proceed with the uprising to President Bashar Assad, and concern over growing foreign influence in the crisis.
Syria's opposition also suffers from a lack of a central authority, with the SNC and FSA accusing the other of trying to hijack control of the uprising, while local opposition groups have criticized both the SNC and FSA for allowing foreign influence, particularly from Gulf Arab states.
The SNC attempted to forge a military alliance with the FSA earlier in the year, but it broke down after the two groups failed to agree on a central command.
The SNC similarly signed a memorandum of understanding with the Damascus-based National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) in December, only for it to collapse hours later following objections from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The SNC is also struggling with its own internal disagreements, with several high profile resignations in recent months. Secular, nationalist and liberal members have been dismayed by the Muslim Brotherhood's overwhelming influence on the organization.
The Cairo talks come after world powers meeting in Geneva on Saturday agreed a transition plan that was branded a failure by both the opposition and the Syrian state media.
The boycotters said the talks follow the "dangerous decisions of the Geneva conference, which aim to safeguard the regime, to create a dialogue with it and to form a unity government with the assassins of our children."
"The Cairo conference aims to give a new chance to (UN-Arab League) envoy Kofi Annan to try again to convince Assad to implement his six-point plan...while forgetting that thousands have been martyred since the plan came into force," they said.
The transition plan agreed in Geneva did not make any explicit call for Assad to cede power, as urged by Western governments, after Russia and China insisted that Syrians themselves must decide how the transition takes place.
The Syrian National Council said in a statement on Sunday that "no initiative can receive the Syrian people's backing unless it specifically demands the fall of Bashar Assad and his clique."