Inside Syria

The long road to Geneva II

As the key opposition bloc refuses to attend the upcoming peace conference, we discuss the prospects for peace in Syria.

Last updated: 05 Jan 2014 13:50
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Members of the Syrian National Council have repeated that they will not attend talks to try and find an end to the conflict.

We have no delegation, no solid commitment on attendance and with all these divisions..., the war within the civil war happening now with the uprising against one of the two al-Qaeda affiliates on the rebel side, there is no way that there could be any sort of implementation.

Hannah Allam, the foreign affairs correspondent at McClatchy newspapers

The council is the largest opposition bloc within the Syrian National Coalition umbrella opposition group and it was never keen on the idea of the Geneva II peace talks.

It says it has been offered no incentive by the Assad government to attend the international peace conference.

They also do not feel confident that the western powers, the Middle Eastern powers, and powers like Russia are actually committed to the preconditions that these groups and the SNC as a body wanted to see enacted before or during the Geneva II peace talks.

Other parts of the Syrian National Coalition may also refuse to attend the peace talks.

The United Nations (UN) hopes to bring together all sides at the end of January. It will be the first such meeting since the conflict in Syria began. 

Meanwhile, there were other developments on the ground, where rebel in-fighting has taken a new turn with one Islamic group taking on another.

The Islamic Front claims to have killed 16 fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

If the Iranians want to be there [at Geneva II], they have to agree to the principles of Geneva. They need to pull out their forces. If they are going to be there, they will be sitting in the guilty seat. Iran is what kept this regime going for their own strategic interests.

Khaled Saleh, the head of the media office of the SNC

Local fighters and civilians in rebel-held territory have been growing increasingly unhappy with ISIL's influence and protests against the group took place on Friday.

There are reports that ISIL fired on these demonstrators in the town of Kafar Takharim in Iblib province to break up the rally.

The group has been criticised for increasing the violence and seizing journalists, aid workers and activists.

And adding to the confusion on the ground, the Islamic Front now says it is not actually against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.

So, what do the latest developments in the war-torn country mean for the Syrian people? Who is actually willing to attend the Geneva II peace talks?

If the largest bloc of the opposition refuses to attend the peace talks, how will it affect the decision-making process of the Syrian National Coalition? Will there be a domino effect? And with so many divisions apparent within the opposition as a whole, what is the role of the SNC?

Presenter David Foster is joined by Khaled Saleh, the head of the media office of the opposition Syrian National Coalition; Hannah Allam, the foreign affairs correspondent at McClatchy newspapers; and Mohammad Bassam Imadi, a former member of the Syrian National Council, who is also the former Syrian ambassador to Sweden.

"The SNC was established on the wrong basis. It was only some expatriates who were living outside Syria, they lost touch with reality in Syria. They didn't know what was going on. They had no connection with the people inside and they came and thought that this revolution will end so quickly like Egypt and Tunisia, so they were not really interested in establishing a real institutional organisation that could work in cohesion with the people inside Syria. They thought that within a few months they will become presidents or ministers so they were not interested in doing anything other than contacting the foreign powers and countries around Syria and they neglected totally the revolutionaries inside the military, the civilian people inside. And above all they could not work as a unit, they lost everything."

Mohammad Bassam Imadi, a former member of the Syrian National Council


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