Syrian Rebel Fighters give ultimatum to SNC

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News – 30.5.2013 – Fighters say some SNC members ‘just care about their own positions.’ – The Syrian rebels on the ground have given an ultimatum to the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the largest opposition group supported by the western powers, to decide whether or not to expand to represent the “revolutionary forces on the ground.” The rebels’ ultimatum comes as high ranking officials, including the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, rushed to the Istanbul meeting to solve the crisis.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) had given a deadline of only 24 hours, which was set to extend as of yesterday afternoon, to decide whether to agree on an expansion that would include representatives of the rebels.

“They [SNC] don’t want to give chairs to revolutionary forces on the ground. We gave them 24 hours to represent the revolutionary forces on the ground,” Louay al-Mokdad, political and media coordinator of the FSA, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “We are giving them time to change their mind. We want real steps from the Coalition and to work only for the Syrian revolution and the Syrian people,” said al-Mokdad, describing some of the Coalition members as “selfish.” “Some people inside the Syrian Coalition are selfish, sorry to say that. They are fighting for their chairs and their powers inside the Coalition, instead of for the Syrian people and the Syrian revolutionaries on the ground,” he added. Meanwhile, a group of high level officials from the Friends of Syria countries made a surprise visit to the Coalition’s meeting in Istanbul yesterday afternoon, related to the extension of the deadline. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, former French Ambassador to Damascus Eric Chevalier, U.S. Ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford, and Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Salman bin Sultan, held a meeting with the SNC members, in order to push for a solution to the ongoing crisis in the SNC.

“The minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu] will address the opposition on behalf of 11 core group of Friends of Syria,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News. “Putting pressure on Syrian opposition or imposing a specific formula is out of question,” the diplomat added. “On the contrary, the minister will express our absolute support, that we’ll support any decision they would take and we’d like to see outcomes of this gathering as soon as possible” the diplomat also said.

‘Failed responsibilities’

Four Syrian fighter groups, known as the Revolutionary Movement in Syria, also said in a statement yesterday that the “Syrian Coalition has failed to fulfill its responsibility to represent the great Syrian people’s revolution.” The groups’ statement added that they wanted to have “no fewer than 50 percent of the seats in the Coalition and its leadership bureaus.”

Both sides were holding meetings on how to solve this crisis.

The SNC could not agree on the names to expand toward in its meeting in Istanbul, which started on May 23 and was extended until this week. It is stuck between the western powers, which expect a response as to whether the group will attend the international meeting, widely called ‘Geneva 2,’ and the recent demands of rebel fighters on the ground. Abdulbaset Seida, a member of the SNC, told the Daily News that they were discussing whether to expand more to include more people from inside Syria, in response to the rebel forces’ statements.

“We are discussing the alternatives. We have partly made our extension and have eight new members. But it is better for the revolution if we can take some people from inside Syria,” said Seida.