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Long live Syrian government-in-exile? Opposition rejects Assad’s invitation to form new cabinet

Published time: January 21, 2013 00:18
Edited time: January 21, 2013 04:20

Reuters / Muzaffar Salman

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Syria’s internationally recognized opposition coalition has held a meeting to name the country’s “prime minister-in-exile” a day after the country’s foreign minister invited any unarmed groups to participate in forming the new cabinet.

­The foreign formed Syrian National Coalition which has been recognized as the “sole legitimate representative” of Syria and Syrian people by the majority of Western powers, held a closed door meeting in Istanbul on Sunday to consider the creation of a government-in-exile and select its leader.

“A proposal was made to name Riad Hijab but it has run into much criticism,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Hijab is a former prime minister of Syria who defected and fled the country with his family last August.

The discussions are set to resume on Monday as opposition members prepare for a Paris meeting with the Friends of Syria nations on January 28.

Istanbul’s meeting has taken place a day after Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem appeared on state television calling on all “true representatives of the Syrian people” including Syrian based opposition groups to take part in a discussion, and then form a new Cabinet with wide executive powers.

“I tell the young men who carried arms for change and reform, take part in the dialogue for a new Syria and you will be a partner in building it,” Moallem stated, adding that “those who want foreign intervention will not be among us.”

The minister also blamed the armed militants for the bloodshed in the country calling them “Western-backed terrorists” trying to “undermine the presidency” of a sovereign country.

Earlier in January, President Assad outlined his vision for a solution to the 22-month conflict including a cease-fire, dialogue, and the creation of a broad-based new government.

The President’s speech was rejected by the opposition, which remains adamant about Assad's departure as a prerequisite to end the conflict that the UN says has killed more than 60,000 people.

By rejecting Assad’s proposal and holding the meeting in Istanbul, the opposition umbrella has closed the door to end the bloodshed, says political analyst Lajos Szaszdi. He believes the violence will continue as long as the rebel supporters want Assad out.

“They are encouraged to do so by foreign backers of the opposition,” Szaszdi told RT. “You have the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Western powers backing the opposition, but you also have Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other wealthy states from the Persian Gulf region. You also have Turkey and Jordan. So they are encouraging their sides not to cooperate, not to engage in negotiations with the government in Damascus because they want its removal.” 

“They do not want to compromise,” Szaszdi added. “They just want that government out.”