The Egyptian capital Cairo will host the “Expanded Conference of the Syrian Opposition and National Forces" from June 8-9 in an attempt to consolidate a unified Syrian opposition. According to Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdul Ati, the conference aims to "share the vision of a wider spectrum of the Syrian opposition about how to progress to the next phase in order to end the Syrian crisis, and to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of Syrian people while maintaining the unity of the Syrian land and state institutions".
Al-Akhbar, a newspaper with close ties to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Assad regime, quoted an Egyptian diplomatic source as saying: "Cairo continues its coordination with Moscow in order to find a mechanism that satisfies the Syrian opposition, and at the same time ensures the survival of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in office, so that the opposition may become a partner in the government".
The source explained that Cairo is attempting to exploit its influence on various parties to make concessions in order to find a realistic solution to the Syrian issue, separate from external military intervention, in addition to maintaining the unity of the Syrian land.
According to the diplomat, Egypt will not impose any conditions on the Syrian opposition leaders, but it will instead offer multiple perspectives to the attendants, who will be free to accept or reject them. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry is currently engaged in negotiations with the Syrian opposition parties to agree on what will be discussed in the conference.
The source added: "Cairo seeks to specify the points of contention between the opposition parties in secret sessions, and the Cairo Declaration will be issued at the end of the second day of the conference". The source noted that the terms of the conference will be discussed later with the Syrian regime, either directly – between the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and its counterpart in Assad's regime – or through Moscow, which promised to pressure the Assad regime to accept a fair settlement on the Syrian issue.
As for the possibility of holding early presidential elections in Syria, the source said: "There is a consensus on keeping the Syrian president in office, but there is no agreement on whether he will stay until the end of his presidential term or he will call for early elections". The source added that the most important factor in the current stage is the "formation of a coalition government that includes all opposition forces to stop the fight and confront the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".
According to the statements of the former member of the Coordination Commission, Haytham Manna, "more than two-hundred figures from the political and military opposition, including Arabs, Kurds and all other minorities, will participate in the meeting to elect a political body and adopt a roadmap and national charter".
The Syrian National Coalition, who will not participate in the conference, explained in a statement released on May 18 that it would not participate in the conference on the basis of a decision made by its General Commission on April 22. The coalition's vice president, Hisham Marwa, criticized the opposition conference in Cairo, stressing that any conference that does not include all the components of the Syrian opposition will not result in a solution that satisfies all Syrians.
The first Cairo meeting was held between January 22-24, which resulted in the adoption of the Cairo statement and the formation of a follow-up committee to contact the Syrian opposition parties in preparation for a second expanded conference.
The Cairo statement consists of 10 points focusing on the importance of reviving the political solution through negotiations based on the Geneva statement and United Nations resolutions.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer