Syrian opposition tells UN's Brahimi to "stay neutral," Assad compares Syria to Algeria
Syria’s key opposition National Coalition on Wednesday urged UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to remain neutral, after he cited opposition divisions over new delays to peace talks, Agence France-Presse reported.
“The Syrian National Coalition confirms that the mission of the joint UN-Arab League envoy -- as understood by the Syrian people -- is to seek to achieve their legitimate aspirations and lift their suffering, or to remain neutral at the very least,” AFP quoted the Coalition as saying in a statement.
The statement comes a day after Brahimi said intensive talks on a mooted peace conference in Geneva had failed to produce a final date for the long-planned discussions.
The opposition accused Brahimi of seeking to “blame” the opposition for his failure to convene the conference, urging him to “adhere to neutrality and not stray from what is acceptable in political discourse.”
Brahimi told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that there was no date, which had been set for peace talks despite renewed suggestions that a conference could take place in November.
Pressed to reveal the main stumbling blocks, Brahimi cited divisions within the Syrian opposition, saying he hoped they would “move towards the formation of a credible delegation” for peace talks.
“That will be a big step forward to make the conference possible,” the Algerian veteran international mediator said.
The Coalition has long said that it will not attend the conference if President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t cede power. Syria said the leader’s role will not be on the table.
The Coalition is also due to meet in Istanbul on Saturday to discuss participation in any peace talks, but faces opposition from a key group which has threatened to quit the grouping if it takes part.
In a related story, President Assad on Wednesday compared his country’s war against rebels, whom he describes as “terrorists,” to the conflict that devastated Algeria for an entire decade.
“The Algerian people’s position on the Syrian conflict is not surprising, considering they had to undergo a challenge that was similar to the Syrian people’s, which is currently facing terrorism,” AFP quoted Assad as saying during a visit by an Algerian delegation to Damascus.
When an anti-Assad revolt broke out in March 2011, Damascus branded opponents as “terrorists,” even before the movement took up arms.
Algeria has systematically abstained in Arab League votes that have resulted in decisions to punish the Assad regime.
The Algerian civil war in the 1990s killed 200,000 people, according to official figures.
It erupted after the army suspended an electoral process when the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won the first round of a parliamentary vote in 1991.