Rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s government in southern Syria declared yesterday that the main opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) had “failed” and that they would no longer recognize the Western-backed group.
The video statement signed by nearly 70 groups came after a group of key rebel groups in the north of the country announced their rejection of the coalition in late September.
“Having seen the failure of the political groups that claim to represent the opposition and the revolutionary groups … we leaders of the military and revolutionary groups in the southern provinces withdraw our recognition from any political group that claims to represent us,” a rebel spokesman said in the video. The spokesman referred specifically to “the coalition and its leadership.”
Nearly 70 rebel groups signed on to the statement, which comes after fighters in northern Syria said last month they also rejected the coalition.
Filmed in an unnamed desert area, the video statement shows rebels dressed in army fatigues and holding up their weapons. Behind them is a banner with the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) logo.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse, the FSA’s political and media coordinator, Louay Muqdad, said the statement was not a rejection of the mainstream rebel force headed by Gen. Salim Idris. “We saw the statement, and we will be in contact with the leaders of these groups,” Muqdad said.
“As for our brothers in the coalition, they need to listen carefully to the voice of the people inside Syria, to those who are paying with their blood in Syria, to the revolutionaries on the ground,” he said. “The revolutionaries’ demands must not be taken lightly.”
The Idris-led command council called in early October for unity among rebel ranks.
The statement came after a U.S. official said Washington was trying to persuade a key opposition group to drop its refusal to join planned peace talks in Geneva.
The Syrian National Council, which is the biggest bloc within the SNC, said on the weekend it would not attend the talks planned for next month and would quit the umbrella group if it does. “There have been many ups and downs in this process. And that’s not unexpected given how challenging the situation is on the ground,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“But we continue to press for the opposition to have a representative body at the Geneva conference,” she told reporters.
George Sabra, the president of the Syrian National Council, said Oct. 13 it was impossible to carry out negotiations given the suffering of people on the ground.
On the ground, at least 41 fighters have been killed in violent clashes pitting Kurds against jihadists and Islamist rebels in northeastern Syria, a monitoring group said yesterday.
Kurdish fighters from several villages in oil-rich Hasakah governorate are engaged in combat against al-Qaeda affiliated groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Also, a blast ripped through a pickup truck in southern Syria, killing 21 people. A truck was passing through an area of Daraa province in southern Syria where troops loyal to al-Assad are stationed when it was struck by a blast, the observatory said.
Daraa is the cradle of the uprising that broke out against al-Assad in March 2011.