Close ranks, PM urges Syrian rebels

November 09, 2012 - 4:10:49 am

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al Arabi in Doha yesterday.

DOHA: Syrian opposition factions were ensconced in a closed-door meeting with Arab and Western diplomats at the Doha Sheraton here until the time of going to the press late last night and it is expected that an announcement might be made at its conclusion about the formation of a provisional Syrian government in exile.

Qatar which heads the Arab League Committee of Syria and which is hosting this meeting is represented by H E Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

This is the last session of the marathon meeting of the Syrian opposition factions that actually began here last Sunday under the umbrella of the Syrian National Congress (SNC), reported yesterday.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister,   H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, who heads the Arab League Committee on Syria, presided over a meeting of the Syrian opposition factions under the umbrella of the SNC. 

He urged the Syrian opposition groups to close their ranks in these times of national crisis and rise to the occasion in the interest of their people. “You have a historic responsibility on your shoulders and that should make you united,” the Premier told SNC members in the presence of Nabil Al Arabi, Secretary-General of the Arab League.

The Arab League Committee on Syria, which the PM heads, has been set up to see an amicable end to the crisis in the country.

“United you should face the challenges facing your country and people. These are sensitive times for Syria,” said the Prime Minister at the closed-door meeting which was also attended by foreign ministers of several countries such as Turkey, Egypt and UAE, among others.

Syrians from a broad spectrum of opposition to President Bashar Al Assad seemed close to reaching agreement on a unified political structure that world powers will accept as credible and representative. 

“We are moving towards agreement,” said Burhan Ghalioun, former chief of the main opposition SNC hours after the meeting started.

Any agreement on unifying opposition ranks “could boost the uprising” as it will enable the opposition later to unite the different military groups battling regime troops, he added. Prominent dissident Riad Seif, who had proposed a Western-backed initiative to unite the opposition and form a transitional government, shared the optimism. “We are very optimistic” an agreement can be reached “tonight or tomorrow,” Seif told reporters.

The opposition is moving towards creating “a political leadership that would satisfy the Syrians and be recognised by the international community,” he said, adding that there were “big chances” the initiative would “succeed.”

Washington wants the opposition to reshape into a widely representative government-in-exile.

“The organisers were inspired by all the initiatives presented to us to finally come up with a project we could discuss,” said one participant, requesting anonymity. He said the organisers had prepared a summary of all the initiatives to be discussed. The project submitted proposes “forming a 10-member transition government and a military council,” he said.

Representatives from a number of countries, including the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, are attending the meeting alongside Arab League chief and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abdullatif Al Zayani. Turkey is represented by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu while a leading dissident, former premier Riad Hijab who defected in August, is also attending.

The SNC has earlier broadened its base and chosen a 41-member General Secretariat. The new General-Secretariat has 18 new members and the Secretariat is expected to pick a 12-member Executive Committee today.

But the new General Secretariat was criticised for not giving representation to several groups and not including some prominent opposition figures. So it has been agreed to by the SNC to include four more members in its secretariat to represent minority groups and women.

The SNC, according to, yesterday refused to accept any umbrella of Syrian opposition other than itself if the key initiative of forming a provisional government in exile is to succeed. 

The SNC has also refused to accept Riad Seif’s proposal that the total membership of the General Secretariat be expanded to 60 with only 24 of them representing the SNC.

The Peninsula/AFP

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