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Decision on Syrian opposition coalition's participation in Geneva-2 expected on weekend

January 17, 2014, 10:25 UTC+3 BEIRUT

The source said differences in the Coalition's ranks are so strong that opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba is unlikely to secure the necessary 60 votes in his support

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Syrian opposition meeting in Istanbul

Syrian opposition meeting in Istanbul


BEIRUT, January 17. /ITAR-TASS/. A decision whether the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCROF) would take part in the Geneva-2 peace conference will be made "not earlier than Saturday or Sunday", a source at the NCROF General Secretariat told Al Hayat newspaper on Friday.

The source said differences in the Coalition's ranks are so strong that opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba is unlikely to secure the necessary 60 votes in his support.

Infographics Powerful Syrian politicians

Powerful Syrian politicians

Details on most powerful supporters of Syrian President Assad and opposition leaders. ITAR-TASS Infographics
The head of the NCROF himself and a group of realists in his entourage agree to travel to Switzerland but they constitute a minority in the Coalition's leadership. Moreover, six factions, discontented with the re-election of al-Jarba for a new term on January 6, formally withdrew from NCROF. Among them, there are liberal forces that come out in favor of looking for a compromise way out of the crisis.

Al-Jarba, at the Coalition's meeting opening in Istanbul on Friday faces the need to regain trust and put forward convincing arguments in favor of participation in the Geneva-2. His main opponents are in the ranks of the Syrian National Council (SNC), NCROF's basic group controlled by the Moslem Brotherhood.

Early in January, the SNC opposed participation in the peace conference until getting firm guarantees that President Bashar Assad "will quit his post without fail". The head of the Supreme Military Council Salim Idris, who expresses the view of Syrian rebels, also stated that NCROF's expected decision to travel to Geneva would be a "wrong choice" which does not meet the interests of the "Syrian revolution".

Meanwhile, Lebanese news analyst Sami Kleib points out that changes have come about in the position of the United States against the background of an obvious inability of the split coalition abroad to place itself at the head of a transitional process in Syria and the enhancement of the positions of extremists in the ranks of armed formations. "American diplomats are aware that at this stage only Assad is capable of resisting the terrorist threat and ensuring Syria's unity," Kleib maintains.

In this situation, Kleib said, the question of whether the Syrian leader will nominate him for presidency in the middle of 2014 or presidential polls will be postponed for the transitional period remains open.

In the meantime, according to reports from Damascus, additional difficulties arose in the path of the formation of Syrian opposition’s joint delegation, which is to sit down at the negotiating table in Switzerland.

The leading group of the internal opposition — the National Coordination Committee (NCC) refused to participate in the Geneva-2 conference. "The humiliating conditions, on which we are suggested to be present at the forum, are unacceptable to us," NCC representative Munzir Khaddam told the Al-Watan news service in Damascus. He said Mukhtar Lamani, Assistant to the special representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, instead of an invitation, notified NCC leader Hassan Abdul Azim that an opposition delegation would be formed and led by the NCROF chief.

Earlier, in an interview to the Al Mayadeen TV station, NCC representative abroad Khaisam Manaa emphasized that the patriotic opposition inside Syria might not join the NCROF delegation, considering that "that group operates at Saudi bidding".

Fierce clashes between warring groups of mujahedeen are going on in Syria's north these days. The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIl) organization, connected with Al Qaeda, is notable for particular ferocity. Its suicide bombers on Thursday staged three terrorist attacks against the headquarters of their adversaries on the approaches to Aleppo. One of the explosions in the area of Qafar-Nuran killed more than 50 rebels from among the so-called Syrian Free Army (SFA). In Tell Rafaat, the number of SFA casualties was more than 20.

Pro-government troops, availing themselves of the fact that the armed formations of the opposition denuded defenses, score successes in a number of sectors. The Surya al-En news agency reports that the 17th division launched an attack in al-Raqqah province along the Euphrates. In the eastern sector, north of Palmira, strikes against the militants' strong points were delivered in Qasr al Sharqi.

The residential blocks of Damascus were again shelled by mortars on Thursday. Material damage was inflicted by the bursts of shells in the downtown area on Mazraa Street and in the southern sector of the ring road.

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