Last updated: 26 July, 2011

Syria protest leaders to meet in Istanbul

Representatives of Syrian anti-regime protesters are to meet on Wednesday in Turkey to discuss coordination and strategy, a Syrian activist said.

Bahiya Mardini, who heads the Cairo-based Arab Free Speech Committee, told AFP in Nicosia on Tuesday that the meeting would be the first of its kind since dissent against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad erupted in mid-March.

Syrian dissidents have already met in Istanbul, but there has been no gathering of people directly connected to the almost daily protests that have shaken Syria since March 15.

The Istanbul meeting will run until Saturday and focus on “developing the coordination between activists and working groups of the revolution,” said Mardini.

She said training sessions will be held during the four-day gathering, as well as workshops covering several aspects of revolutionary work, from the legal, political and media aspects to logistics.

On Wednesday, delegates from the so-called Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union will submit “papers for discussion and other documents about the revolution.”

Earlier this month some 350 Syrian dissidents gathered in Istanbul for a so-called National Salvation Congress to debate strategies to oust the Assad regime.

Turkey, whose ties with Damascus have flourished in recent years, hosted two other meetings of Syrian dissidents in April and in June.

And on June 27 an unprecedented gathering of Syrian dissidents and intellectuals was held in Damascus to press ahead with a peaceful uprising against the regime.

Ankara has piled the pressure on Assad to initiate reform but has stopped short of calling for his departure.