The Cable

New Syrian National Council convening Saturday in Istanbul

Hundreds of representatives of the Syrian opposition are converging on Istanbul tomorrow to formally inaugurate the Syrian National Council, which will put itself forward as the official representative of the Syrian revolution. M. Yaser Tabbara, a Syrian activist and human rights lawyer based in Chicago, previewed the conference in a Friday interview with The Cable. ...

Hundreds of representatives of the Syrian opposition are converging on Istanbul tomorrow to formally inaugurate the Syrian National Council, which will put itself forward as the official representative of the Syrian revolution.

M. Yaser Tabbara, a Syrian activist and human rights lawyer based in Chicago, previewed the conference in a Friday interview with The Cable. He said that over the last several weeks, opposition leaders both inside and outside Syria have identified about 550 activists, professionals, and academics who could establish an official alternative to the Syrian government, and would represent the revolution with foreign governments and international organizations.

An "overwhelming majority" of those approached about the idea have signed on to the idea and will meet in Istanbul tomorrow to set up the council, establish committees, and set a road map for its activities going forward, he said. The objective of the council will not be to negotiate with the Assad regime, but rather to stand as an alternative government-in-waiting, similar to the Transitional National Council in Libya.

"For the past five months, there has been an attempt to bring together the Syrian opposition and the pro-democracy movement under an umbrella group and there has also been a call from the international community for an entity for them to deal with," Tabbara said.

"A group of technocrats and independent activists, professionals, academics, lawyers, have decided to come together to put together a roadmap to create the national council that has been awaited."

This isn’t the first time Syrian opposition leaders have tried to form a council to speak on behalf of the revolution. There was a meeting of opposition leaders in Antalya, Turkey in early June and in Istanbul in late June. A different group of opposition leaders also met in June in Brussels. Tomorrow’s meeting’s goal is to unite all of those efforts under one banner.

Tabbara, one of the organizers of tomorrow’s Istanbul meeting, said that the new Syrian National Council will include proportional representation from all relevant ethnic, geographical, religious, and ideological groups involved in the Syrian revolution.

The new council already has support from a range of Syrian activist groups, ideological groups, and political parties both inside and outside Syria, Tabbara said. He declined to name the groups that have already endorsed the process, but said those details will be revealed in a press conference on Sunday.

He described the Council as the "crème de la crème" of those who are fighting to pursue a democratic transition in Syria and the ouster of the Assad regime, and stressed that the new project will be "a council of individuals, not entities."

The council’s creation comes soon after the U.S. and European states have called for Assad’s ouster, and are mulling ways to increase pressure on the Syrian regime to make that a reality. The United States, Turkey, and other supportive governments, are being kept in the loop but are not directly involved in the project, said Tabbara.

"This is what the international community has been waiting for," he said. "More importantly, it’s what the Syrians on the ground have been waiting for."

 Twitter: @joshrogin
Tag: Syria

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