Sunday, June 5, 2011

Syrian Opposition Plans a Second Meeting after Elections

Syrian opposition figures are planning another meeting in Turkey after the elections on June 12. Opposition spokesman Khaled Khoja told Turkish press the opposition did not want to create problems for the Turkish government before elections, but that the next meeting will be larger than the one held in Antalya last week and draw on the opposition in Syria who were not able to attend the earlier meeting. However, whether the opposition will be able to cross the border given Syrian security remains to be seen.

The opposition is also hoping for more support and facilitation from the Turkish government, which at this time, is still in regular contact with President Assad. Anonymous Turkish diplomatic officials are telling Turkish press that the Turkish government has given Assad an ultimatum: reform or be prepared for a withdrawal of Turkish support. From Hurriyet Daily News:
In a televised interview over the weekend, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his government would place much focus on the developments in the Middle East and North Africa after the elections.

“We cannot repeat our previous performance during the election time. I am actually quite interested in Syria at this time … I talked on the phone with Mr. Bashar al-Assad,” he said.

The Syrian president is misinforming the Turkish government, according to the Syrian opposition.

“Al-Assad is sending some messages to satisfy the Turkish government that he is going on with new reforms but we don’t believe it at all. This is just to satisfy the public opinion in Turkey and in the international community,” Khoja said.

Asked if they had any contacts within the Turkish government, he said: “At the low level we have some contacts but at the high level, no.”

The planned meeting after the Turkish elections will be more important than the Antalya meeting “because a lot of committees from Syria will gather here,” Khoja said.

“Now they are preparing in Syria to send representatives, some of whom are from Damascus. This will represent the real movement in Syria,” he added. “The opposition outside Syria can only support the movement inside Syria but since the movement in Syria will represent itself at that upcoming meeting, it will be more important.”

Khoja said the group chose Turkey as a venue for its meetings “because Turkey is in the middle of the active countries and it’s so easy to gather here without any visas.” Turkey and Syria abolished visa requirements for travel in 2009.
For an English-language translation of the declaration drafted at the conclusion of the conference on Friday, see Joshua Landis's excellent blog, Syria Comment. Human rights groups are reporting that security forces killed 35 demonstrators over the weekend.

No comments: