Arab League Urges Syrian Opposition to Unite

Posted July 2nd, 2012 at 12:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby has urged the fragmented Syrian opposition to unite and criticized a United Nations-brokered plan for a transitional government in Syria.

Elaraby, who is chairing a two-day meeting in Cairo attended by some 250 opposition figures, urged the factions “not to waste this opportunity” to overcome their differences.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivered the same message Monday, warning that a “weak and disorganized” opposition would only benefit President Bashar al-Assad's government. He said Damascus is making a futile attempt to “reverse the course of history.”

“There will be a transition and change in Syria. It is inevitable, and there will be a new administration and democratic regime in Syria eventually. It must be clear that only the Syrian people are to decide about the future of any agreement on their own country.”

Davutoglu said there will be a Friends of Syria meeting this Friday in Paris attended by about 100 countries and organizations.

Anti-government fighters based in Syria did not attend the Cairo meeting. A statement issued by the rebel Free Syrian Army criticized the talks for “rejecting the idea of a foreign military intervention to save the people…and ignoring the question of [protected] buffer zones, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo and the arming of rebel fighters.”

A source who works closely with the FSA said one reason its commanders did not send a representative to Cairo is because its multiple factions could not agree on a unified front.

The meeting comes after Syrian opposition groups forcefully rejected a watered-down version of U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's plan for a political transition in Syria adopted at an international conference in Geneva.

At Russia's insistence, the compromise agreement left open the possibility of Mr. Assad being a part of the interim administration. Opposition members called the plan “ambiguous” and “a farce” and ruled out any possibility of sharing power with the reviled Syrian leader.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen Monday urged the international community to enforce the peace plan for Syria endorsed by the Geneva conference. Speaking in Brussels, he reiterated that NATO has “no intention to intervene militarily” in the Syrian conflict.

Meanwhile, Turkey, which has been among the Syrian government's harshest critics, scrambled warplanes near its southern border with Syria for the second time in three days Monday in response to Syrian helicopters approaching the frontier.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former ally of Mr. Assad who has turned against him, says Turkey's military rules of engagement have been changed and any Syrian forces approaching the border and deemed threatening will be targeted.

The moves come after Syria shot down a Turkish warplane 10 days ago under disputed circumstances.

Fighting continued inside Syria on Monday, as government helicopters and artillery pounded rebel-held areas across the country, including the Damascus suburb of Douma and the central city of Homs.