Asharq Al-Awsat – 25.8.2013 – Beirut — The Istanbul-based Syrian National Council (SNC) reelected George Sabra as its chairman for another six months on Tuesday.A leading Syrian opposition figure, Sabra was first elected last November.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an SNC source told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the elections held during the general secretariat’s meeting on Tuesday were contested by Sabra and a member of the executive board, Hisham Marwah.”
“Marwah later withdrew in favor of Sabra, who obtained the majority of votes in the first round.” Meanwhile, the SNC ordered the suspension of the opposition group’s general secretariat meetings scheduled for this week in protest at Wednesday’s massacre of civilians in the eastern Ghouta district near Damascus, allegedly carried out by government forces using chemical weapons. The alleged massacre has killed off all prospects for reaching any “political solutions” that might be proposed in the forthcoming Geneva 2 talks with the Assad regime, a member of the SNC’s executive board, Ahmad Ramadan, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
In a press conference he held in Istanbul Wednesday afternoon, the SNC chairman announced that the massacre is a turning point in the regime’s military operations. Sabra said that Syrian government forces, and also “the US reluctance . . . [and] the Arab peoples’ indifference, are killing us.”
Sabra addressed the international community by saying: “The Syrian regime mocked the world and used chemical weapons while UN inspectors were in Syria.”
“The Ghouta massacre directly echoed the words of the head of the regime [Bashar Al-Assad] that he will use all means in his war against the people whom he describes as ‘terrorists’ and ‘Takfirists,'” he added. He called upon the international community to “force the regime to end its war against Syrians by taking tangible measures.”
These measures include the UN Security Council holding an emergency session and issuing a resolution ordering a halt to the Syrian government’s military operations against Syrians, and offering protection to Syrians as well as imposing a no-fly zone. Sabra condemned “Iran’s military presence as well as the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi Shi’ite militias fighting along with the regime.” He also called upon international donors to provide “humanitarian aid for Syrians and help them overcome the humanitarian catastrophe the regime have led them to.”
On Wednesday a chemical attack was allegedly carried out against civilians in the eastern Ghouta district, near the Syrian capital of Damascus. Both the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition blamed the other for the attack. The attack coincided with a long-delayed visit by a UN team to investigate previous chemical attacks that have allegedly taken place in Syria. There were conflicting reports about the death toll of Wednesday’s attack, with figures ranging from 300 to 1,300 civilians.