Both the Syrian regime and the opposition Free Syrian Army are to blame for the deadly violence that rocked the country for months, the the U.N.’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Syria said on Tuesday.
The committee noted that some of the killings in Syria were sectarian-based. The majority armed Sunni opposition is fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad who belongs to the minority Allawite clan. The Alawism is an offshoot of the Shia Islam, which partly explains why Iran and Hezbollah, both regional Shiite powers, have stood up for Assad.
The committee also said the mission of the International Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was creating proper conditions for dialogue between the regime and the opposition.
On Tuesday, the Syrian regime said it is “interested in exploring” a ceasefire in the 19-month conflict as proposed by Brahimi, said foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdisi, who also stressed that the rebels and their backers would need to be involved as well.
The divided armed opposition, meanwhile, have agreed to set up a joint leadership to oversee their battle to overthrow President Assad, two insurgent sources said on Tuesday as fighting raged in cities across the country.
Rebels hope the decision, taken after increasing pressure from foreign supporters on them to unite, will help convince those backers that they are a credible and coordinated fighting force deserving to be supplied with more powerful weapons.
"The agreement has been reached, they only need to sign it now," one rebel source said. Foreign supporters "are telling us: 'Sort yourselves out and unite, we need a clear and credible side to provide it with quality weapons'."
He said Qatar and Turkey were the main drivers behind the agreement, which might be formally announced this month.
It is the latest attempt to bring together Assad's disparate armed opponents, most of whom have fought nominally under the banner of the rebel Free Syrian Army but who in practice have operated independently, often weakened by deep rivalries.
The new leadership will include FSA leaders Riad al-Asaad and Mustafa Sheikh - criticized by many rebels because they are based in Turkey - and recently defected General Mohammad Haj Ali, as well as heads of rebel provincial military councils inside Syria like Qassem Saadeddine, based in Homs province.
The Syrian National Council has set Nov. 4 as the date for an opposition unity conference in Qatar, organizers said.