Syria Opposition Chief Rejects Talks
The leader of Syria’s main opposition group rejected calls Friday by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with President Bashar Assad’s government, saying they were pointless and unrealistic as the regime massacres its own people.
As the prospects for diplomacy faltered, a Turkish official said two Syrian generals, a colonel and two sergeants defected to Turkey on Thursday, a day after Syria’s deputy oil minister also deserted Assad’s regime, making him the highest-ranking civilian official to join the opposition.
The military defections are significant as most army defectors so far have been low-level conscripts.
Activists said at least 26 people were killed across Syria on Friday, among them eight who died when mortars slammed in rebellious districts of the central city of Homs.
In a telephone interview from Paris, Burhan Ghalioun, who heads the opposition Syrian National Council, told The Associated Press that Annan already has disappointed the Syrian people.
Annan, who has been appointed joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, has said his mission was to start a “political process” to resolve the conflict in the country. He is due this weekend in Syria where he will meet with Assad.
In comments made in Cairo on Thursday after talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, Annan warned against further militarization of the Syrian conflict and urged the opposition to come together with the government to find a political solution.
“I hope that no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation,” Annan said. “I believe any further militarization would make the situation worse.”
Annan also said he would be making “realistic” proposals to resolve the conflict. He did not elaborate.
But Ghalioun blasted such statements as unrealistic.
“These kind of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day,” Ghalioun said. “It feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again.”
“My fear is that, like other international envoys before him, the aim is to waste a month or two of pointless mediation efforts,” he added.
Syrian activists also rejected Annan’s call for dialogue.
“It seems he lives on Mars,” said Mohammad Saeed, an activist in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
“Between us and Bashar Assad are the bodies of 5,000 martyrs. We can’t hear each other even if we wanted to,” he said. “What dialogue are they talking about?”
Syria’s opposition is fragmented and suffers from infighting, but most factions reject talks with the government while the military crackdown continues.
The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed in the past year since the revolt against Assad erupted in the country’s south and engulfed the country. Activists put the death toll at more than 8,000.