Istanbul meeting: Syria divided opposition begins reconciliation talks

Some plan ‘future’, others simply die

Hundreds of Syrian opponents gathered in Istanbul Tuesday to envision a "democratic" state in Syria, seeking to prepare for the eventual aftermath of President Bashar al-Assad's era.
A large number of opposition factions gathered behind closed doors in the Turkish city to discuss the basic principles for a future Syrian state, which the Syrian National Council (SNC), the umbrella opposition, has pledged to be multinational, civil and democratic.
"The constitution affirms non-discrimination between any of the components of the Syrian society, religious, sectarian and national, among Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen and others," said a draft proposal issued by the SNC.
The opposition summit came days ahead of the second international meeting of "Friends of Syria" on Sunday, to bolster the weight of the opposition which hopes to secure aid and support from dozens of Western and Arabic countries that will participate in the weekend gathering.
The SNC draft principles assured that the new Syria would hold "free, fair and regular elections," vowing to guarantee total independence for the judiciary and its institutions.
The SNC also emphasised that the Syrian Armed Forces would be subject to political power, and would not be used to intervene in political life.
The draft proposal aimed to hammer out the constitutional principles for a future Syria, in the event that the Assad regime, which has not acted on international calls to stop its crackdown on dissent, gets overthrown eventually.
"Despite massacres and inhuman actions committed by the regime, the Syrian people seemed to be determined to remove the regime, developed their struggle to build up a sovereign future state," the SNC proposal added.
Although Tuesday's meeting kicked off with the participation of hundreds of opponents, 400 according to organisers including Kurds, Syrian Turks, Islamist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, hardline Salafists and others, it lacked participation from some of the influential figures.
At least one of the other opponent groups, called the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, refused to attend saying that it feared escalating militarisation in the conflict, which could lead to more casualties.
Prominent opposition figure Michel Kilo was also absent at Tuesday's meeting.
The SNC faces challenges in forming a united front, as three of its prominent members resigned on March 14 in a further blow to efforts for reunification.
Human rights activist Haitham al-Maleh accused the SNC of not respecting the other components of the opposition as he resigned along with two others, Kamal al-Labwani and Catherine al-Telli.
"Al-Maleh withdrew saying that the SNC must be a component of the opposition and not seek to represent all the opposition," a source inside the meeting said.
Al-Maleh, one of the historical figures of the struggle for democracy in Syria, was one of eight executive committee members of the SNC.
The second Friends of Syria meeting on Sunday follows up on a first gathering in Tunis in late February, which hosted representatives from 60 nations, excluding Russia and China.
Those two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are again expected to shun the second conference in Istanbul, according to Turkish sources.
Turkey has become a safe haven for Syrian opponents since the anti-regime protests broke out last year, leading to the deaths of at least 9,100 people according to monitors.