Middle East

Syrian opposition to discuss US-Russia plan on May 23

Ghassan Hitto, the Syrian opposition's newly elected interim prime minister, center right, and head of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces Mouaz al-Khatib, center left, and other members seen during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT: Syria's key National Coalition opposition group will meet May 23 to discuss a US-Russian proposal for an international conference on a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

"The meeting will take place in Istanbul and last three days... to take a decision on the Kerry-Lavrov proposal and our participation," Coalition spokesman Sonir Ahmed told AFP, referring to US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The US-Russian proposal, announced in Moscow last week, calls for an international conference to build on a deal agreed last year in Geneva for a political resolution of the Syrian conflict.

The Geneva deal called for a cessation of violence and the establishment of a transitional government.

But it was criticised by the opposition for failing to call for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and was never implemented.

The Coalition has already responded to the US-Russian overture by insisting that Assad's departure must be part of any deal to end the conflict.

But it has also insisted that it welcomes the initiative.

It "appreciates all efforts towards political solutions that meet the demands of the Syrian people, stop the bloodshed, bring about the release of political prisoners, and ensure the departure of the tyrannical dictatorship," the group said in a statement on Sunday.

Ahmed also said the May 23-25 meeting would be a chance for the Coalition to elect a new president to replace Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, who stepped down in April.

Veteran opposition activist George Sabra took over the position on an interim basis after Khatib's resignation.

The meeting in Istanbul will also examine the composition of an interim government to be headed by Ghassan Hitto, who was named rebel prime minister in March.





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