A Syrian coalition of “independent revolutionaries” have announced that Haytham al-Maleh, an opposition activist, has been tasked with forming a government in exile based in Cairo.
“I have been tasked with leading a transitional government,” Maleh said, adding that he will begin consultations “with the opposition inside and outside” the country.
Maleh, a conservative Muslim, said he was named by a Syrian coalition of “independents with no political affiliation.”
But the opposition Syrian National Council said on Tuesday that it was too early to form a government in exile and that Maleh’s announcement that he had been tasked with forming one was damaging.
“The formation of a government in exile was a hasty decision, and we wish it had not happened,” SNC chief Abdel Basset Sayda told AFP news agency. “It actually weakens the opposition.”
More than 20,000 people have been killed in Syria since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule began in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There is no way to independently verify the figure, while the U.N. has stopped keeping count.
There have been repeated calls on Assad to step down.
When that happens, “we don’t want to find ourselves in a political or administrative vacuum,” Maleh said.
“This phase calls for cooperation from all sides,” he said.
Maleh, 81, is a Syrian lawyer and human rights activist who has spent several years in prison in his homeland.