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28 Mar, 2012 03:18

Standing disunited? Syrian opposition held up by differences

Syrian opposition activists have met in Istanbul to join forces and conjure up a common declaration on Syria's future. But the meeting was marred with walkouts, proving it was difficult for the groups to overcome their differences.

Although several hundred Syrian opponents of the Assad government attended the event, it was largely dominated by the Syrian National Council.As SNC Chairman Burhan Ghalioun read out an action plan calling for greater unity, Haitham al-Maleh, an 80-year old veteran of the Syrian opposition walked out of the gathering. Maleh argued that the SNC had assumed too much dominance and failed to allow other dissidents to have their say. In the meantime, Ghalioun went on with his action plan, which called for raising international backing, supporting peaceful protests and helping to organize and arm the Syrian Free Army. Ghalioun’s speech ended with a pledge for a “national oath” on the future of Syria. The declaration included the main pillars of the new Syrian state the SNC hopes to create after the overthrow of the Assad government.The declaration stated that Syria will be a pluralized and free country that defines its destiny according to the will of its people. The country's constitution would clearly stipulate that all Syrians would be equal before the law, independent of ethnicity or creed. The declaration also promises an “international standard” of speech and thought freedoms, as well as free and fair elections to elect a parliament. The president is to be elected by either the people or the parliament. While the declaration calls for justice to be served, it also says the new state will guarantee reconciliation. In conclusion, Ghalioun said the downfall of Assad’s rulership was now effectively inevitable.But this appeared too far from the truth when a group of delegates from the Kurdish National Council also walked out of the hall, saying they needed a specific solution to the Kurdish problem on paper. A diplomat observing the conference also remarked that the executive council of the SNC had to do more to show that it was listening to the people, as there is a feeling it is not transparent or democratic enough.

The leader of the SNC, Burhan Ghalioun, has fallen under heavy criticism from other branches of the opposition adhering to different ideologies, journalist and author Afshin Rattansi told RT. “The opposition is completely fragmented, and this six-point plan it is like a charter for al-Qaeda,” Rattansi said. On Tuesday, Damascus verbally accepted Kofi Annan's six-point plan to stop bloodshed in the country, with President Assad adding that "no political dialogue or political activity can succeed while there are armed terrorist groups” operating in the country. Rattansi believes that implementing the plan will put Assad in a position where he will not be able remain in power for long.“The release of all those prisoners, which is point four [of Annan's plan], the idea of ‘stop fighting,’ these are all going to play into the foreign hands behind huge elements of the opposition,” Rattansi said. “This opposition is usually fragmented but we know that the regional players that are funding some elements of the rebels that are fighting President Assad would love nothing better that the six-point plan.”