Syrian opposition boycott casts doubt on peace conference

Rebels say no talks until international community intervenes over Qusayr assault

Acting president of the Syrian National Coalition George Sabra: “Diplomatic solutions are a farce, meaningless.” Photograph:  Reuters/Murad Sezer

Acting president of the Syrian National Coalition George Sabra: “Diplomatic solutions are a farce, meaningless.” Photograph: Reuters/Murad Sezer

 

The viability of the Syria peace conference due to take place in Switzerland in about a fortnight has been thrown into question by the decision of the main opposition group not to attend.

At a gathering of opposition groups in Istanbul, the Syrian National Coalition cited the continuing assault by government forces on the western Syria town of Qusayr as their reason for boycotting the Geneva meeting which aims to broker a political solution to the civil war.


‘Farce’
“Diplomatic solutions are a farce, meaningless. The Syrian National Coalition will not take part in any conference until the regime stops killing Syrians,” interim president of the Syrian National Coalition George Sabra said yesterday in Istanbul.

Previously, the SNC said it would go to Geneva but would not negotiate with senior members of the Syrian regime.

It also expected the talks to discuss ending President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria.

The SNC has been roundly criticised for in-fighting and an inability to present a serious alternative to the Assad regime.

It was also expected to name a new coalition president and a presidential committee but officials said events inside Syria had changed this calculus.


On hold
Spokesman Khalid Saleh said all scheduled matters had been taken off the table until the international community stopped the government’s assault on Qusayr.

“In all honesty Qusayr is occupying our efforts. Everything’s on hold. We expect the international community to act on Qusayr. We want political pressure on Hizbullah and Iran,” he said.

“As the situation continues I can say with 95 per cent confidence there won’t be an election.”

In yesterday’s press briefing Mr Sabra called on humanitarian aid organisations to take emergency supplies to Qusayr. Over the past 10 days government troops backed by Hizbullah fighters have surrounded rebels and civilians inside the town.

From the beginning of the revolt in March 2011, Syrian authorities have painted the popular uprising as a fight against foreign terrorists.

Activists say more than 80,000 people have been killed in the fighting.