Syria’s fractious opposition coalition announced Sunday it will not attend mooted peace talks in Geneva unless it received the backing of rebels on the ground.
Spokesman Khaled Saleh, speaking to reporters in Istanbul on the second day of a coalition meeting there, said the opposition and the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) “are on the same side and we are fighting a common enemy”.
The goal, he said, was to have a unified position and “to enter any peace process in a united manner”.
“If we are going to be in Geneva, they are going to be part of that delegation. They have as much interest in a successful and free democratic Syria as we do.”
The opposition coalition’s gathering in an Istanbul hotel was meant to forge a common position on the Geneva talks, which world powers want held to find a negotiated solution to Syria’s conflict.
But without any firm agreement, talks were set to continue on Monday, Saleh said.
Rivalries, disagreements and disparate ambitions have splintered the opposition. And rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s troops are split between the FSA and guerillas linked to Al-Qaeda.
“We still need a lot of discussion before making any firm decision,” one member of the coalition told AFP. “We cannot go to Geneva without wide support from all the factions fighting against Assad.”
During discussions, which Saleh described as “heated”, the coalition reiterated its demand that any peace talks would have to lead to Assad stepping down, a scenario Damascus has rejected.
Saleh said the Turkey-based coalition would send two delegations into Syria to discuss with FSA leaders and civilian groups the prospect of taking part in the Geneva talks.
The coalition was still working on a statement setting out its formal position on the talks, he said.