The president of the Syrian National Coalition Moaz Khatib has announced his resignation from office just four months after being elected.
The head of the Western-backed opposition group has stepped down amid high tension in the coalition. He said in a statement that he is resigning “to be able to work with freedom that cannot be available within the official institutions.”
“I had promised the great Syrian people and promised God that I would resign if matters reached some red lines. Now I am fulfilling my promise,” the statement on Khatib’s Facebook page says.
However, hours after the announcement was made the Syrian
National Coalition released a statement saying the opposition bloc
has refused the resignation of its leader al-Khatib.
“They are asking Mr. Moaz al-Khatib to go back to his work as the president of the Coalition,” the statement said.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has been rife
with internal fighting among its various factions. Lately the body
has been struggling to form an interim government, which would
serve as replacement for the current government of Syrian President
Bashar Assad in the event of an overthrow or resignation.
The SNC managed to elect Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of the provisional government, but his candidacy sparked protest from some members of the coalition. At least 12 members of the council resigned following the election, which ground the process of forming the cabinet to a halt.
Syria's main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army, refuses to recognize Hitto as prime minister.
"We in the Free Syrian Army do not recognize Ghassan Hitto as
prime minister because the (main opposition) National Coalition did
not reach a consensus," at the March 18 vote, FSA political and
media coordinator, Louay Muqdad, told AFP.
"I speak on behalf of the [rebel] military councils and the
Chief of Staff when I say that we cannot recognize a prime minister
who was forced on the National Coalition, rather than chosen by
consensus," he added.
Muqdad called on Coalition members to "make right what was
Members of the Coalition have been disagreeing on other important issues, including whether or not they should negotiate a political solution of the Syrian crisis with Assad’s government, and who should be on their negotiators’ team.
To some, such internal divisions are to be expected when seen in
the light of wider developments. Journalist and political
commentator Alaa Ibrahim believes a major reason for al-Khatib’s
resignation was because of the uncontrollable bloodshed in the
country and that many opposition factions seem to acting
But the reasons for such behavior by the different sectors of the opposition are no surprise to Ibrahim, when the rebels’ foreign backers are themselves at odds with each other at times, which as Ibrahim expressed means “we see more disagreement. Often we’ve seen the US would like to advance a political solution at some point, to be contradicted by the United Kingdom and France, as we’ve seen recently the weapons embargo regarding sending weapons from the EU to Syria. The UK and France were acting in complete disengagement with what the US was at least declaring it wants to do (of course that position changed afterwards). So, everyone knows some of the external opposition operating abroad is directly linked to Western powers – and regional powers also – and they will act accordingly.”
The resignation was announced just after the SNC was invited to
attend an Arab League summit. Both Khatib and Hitto were expected
at the event in Qatar’s capital, Doha. The League was anticipating
formation of the provisional government by the coalition with the
intention to give it Syria’s seat in the organization.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as
Damascus rejected demands that President Assad step down. The
Syrian government accuses some members of the league, including
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, of waging a proxy war against it by
supplying arms and paying militants fighting in Syria.