Opposition bolts from Friends of Syria talks


Syria’s opposition National Coalition said it was pulling out of several international meetings to protest the “international silence” despite the slaughter of civilians in the conflict.

The announcement came after the coalition had said it would form a government to run “liberated areas” of Syria, and as international condemnation mounted against Thursday’s devastating attacks in Damascus that left around 100 people dead.

The National Coalition said it was pulling out of meetings in Italy, Russia and the United States, to protest the “shameful” lack of international condemnation of “crimes committed against the Syrian people.”

The group had been due to attend a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome next Thursday where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also expected. National Coalition chief Mouaz al-Khatib had also been invited to Moscow.

“The international silence on the crimes committed every day against our people amounts to participating in two years of killings,” said the statement.

“We hold the Russian leaders in particular ethically and politically responsible because they continue to support the (Damascus) regime with weapons,” the National Coalition added.

Already Friday, coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni had announced plans for a government for “liberated areas” following a meeting in Cairo. They would decide on its composition and choose its leader at a March 2 meeting, he added.

On Friday, at least 29 people, among them children, were killed in three surface-to-surface missile strikes on eastern Aleppo, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Syrian Army’s use of the missiles on Aleppo is part of a bid to advance on the northern city, swaths of which have fallen into rebel hands since mid-2012, the Observatory said Saturday.

“The army has been trying for weeks to come closer to Aleppo via its eastern entrance, in order to assault it, said Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman. Elite troops are being sent . . . but so far the army has been unsuccessful.”