Talks with Assad sow further division in ranks of Syria opposition
BEIRUT - Syria's main opposition group was to meet Thursday in Cairo, a day after a surprise statement from its chief that he was willing to hold talks with regime officials, a Syrian National Coalition member said.
"This meeting was organised well before the Syrian National Coalition leader, Moaz al-Khatib, made his statement," SNC member Samir Nashar said.
The original agenda was to discuss financial aid from Qatar but "obviously this will change now," said Nashar.
On Wednesday, Khatib announced on Facebook that he was "ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime in Cairo, Tunis or Istanbul".
He laid down as conditions the release of "160,000 detainees" and that the passports of exiled citizens be renewed in embassies abroad.
Khatib's statement drew a mixed reaction from the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The Syrian National Council, a key opposition group and SNC member, rejected Khatib's proposal outright.
Its leader "George Sabra was not scheduled to come to this meeting (in Egypt) because of other engagements, but he has changed his plans and has arrived in Cairo," said Nashar.
The Syrian opposition's "ambassador" to Paris, Monzer Makhous, said Khatib had "softened" his stance because "he feels a special responsibility to try to resolve" the escalating conflict.
Such talks would exclude Assad and his entourage, whom Makhous described as "war criminals".
In Damascus, Al-Watan newspaper said Khatib's statement unmasked "the exiled Syrian opposition's divisions" and that the opposition was "unable to adopt a common stance on the crisis and on ways to resolve it".