Syrian opposition to name new president in Istanbul

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News – 18.5.2013 – Syria’s opposition is set to meet in Istanbul next week to select a president for the Syrian National Coalition and review the Cabinet of the interim government.

The Coalition is expected to increase the number of its members, particularly by adding groups on the ground fighting, during the meeting in Istanbul, in order to become more representative of the Syrian people. The Coalition currently has 62 members. Three opposition figures, George Sabra, Burhan Ghalioun and Louay Safi, are said to have high chances of being elected as the new president of the coalition.

The fate of interim Prime Minister Ghassam Hitto will also be determined at the meeting, which will run from May 23 to 25, as it is well-known that he is not welcomed by some states, including Saudi Arabia, for having resided for many years outside Syria.

Hitto will present his entire Cabinet, apart from the interior and defense ministries, as these posts are set to be named by the by the Supreme Military Council (SMC), according to an agreement with the Syrian Coalition. However, the SMC wants 50 percent of the seats in the coalition before naming the seats, resulting in difficult discussions among the members, who do not want to give seats to the military. The Istanbul meeting will come before an international conference set to bring together both sides in Syria. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Moscow on May 7 to convene an international conference later this month to negotiate on the basis of a political transition plan. After the meeting between Kerry and Lavrov, Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, met with the Syrian opposition leaders about the peace talks in southern Turkey, reportedly to discuss the Kerry-Lavrov meeting.