Earlier this week, Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria, strongly suggested at a news conference that the notoriously fractious Syrian opposition was the reason for continued delays in convening the Geneva 2 conference, the U.S.-Russian effort to start talks toward an end to the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian Opposition Coalition, which is recognized by the United States and many other nations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, didn't take too kindly to his remarks and fired back with charges that Brahimi lacks "neutrality" in his sensitive role.
A statement issued by the Coalition's office in Istanbul says of Brahimi's remarks:
The mission of UN-Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, as far as the Syrian people are concerned, is to pave the way for a political solution that would meet their legitimate aspirations. The joint envoy has a duty to adhere to neutrality. However, his latest efforts were focused on having discussions with the Syrian “opposition” that the Assad regime approves of; the one that is a component of the Assad government.
We should remember that Syria, under the Assad government, has witnessed an unprecedented high level of violence. Moreover, since this government took power, chemical weapons have been used against innocent civilians and a war of starvation has been launched against the Syrian people. By blaming the opposition, Brahimi underscores his failure at finding a suitable formula for holding Geneva II. That is why he should maintain neutrality and adhere to what is acceptable in political discourse.
The real representatives of the Syrian people are those who are committed to achieving the demands of the Syrian people; those who do not cede or waive any rights, whether diplomatic, or on the battlefield.
The coalition's reputation is dismal inside of Syria, where it enjoys little or no credibility among rebel fighters and civilians who are desperately seeking basic services after more than two years of nonstop warfare.
Among its ostensible partners, including the United States, the coalition's reputation isn't much better. Diplomats involved in the talks to persuade opposition forces to come to the negotiating table privately express high frustration with the coalition's constant infighting and competing interests.
Still, the opposition has its defenders, who point out that the coalition has nothing to gain from participating in Geneva 2, which is viewed by many Syrians as an illegitimate exercise that will strengthen the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.