Opposition "would talk to Assad in northern Syria"

Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:03pm EST
 

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib said on Sunday he was willing to hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad's representatives in rebel-held areas of northern Syria to try to end a conflict that has killed about 60,000 people.

The aim of the talks would be to find a way for Assad to leave power with the "minimum of bloodshed and destruction", Alkhatib said in a statement published on his Facebook page.

Sources in the coalition, an umbrella group of opposition political forces, said that Alkhatib, a moderate cleric from Damascus, met international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Cairo on Sunday.

Brahimi played a main role in organizing meetings between Alkhatib and the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, Assad's main supporters, in Munich last week.

The sources said that in their talks on Sunday the two men addressed the question of whether the coalition would formally endorse Alkhatib's peace initiative.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which controls a large bloc within the Islamist-dominated coalition, is against the initiative.

But the Brotherhood, the only organized political force in the opposition, is unlikely to challenge Alkhatib's authority directly, with his initiative gaining popularity in Syria, the sources said.

The Syrian authorities have not responded directly to Alkhatib's initiative -- formulated in broad terms last month. But Information Minister Amran al-Zubi on Friday repeated the government's line that the opposition was welcome to come to Damascus to discuss Syria's future in line with Assad's proposals for a national dialogue.   Continued...

 
Activist preacher Mouaz al-Khatib speaks the General Assembly of the Syrian National Council in Doha November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous