Syrian National Coalition (SNC) chief Moaz al-Khatib denied Monday any divisions within the opposition, which he said is united on President Bashar al-Assad’s departure as a precondition for any solution to the crisis.
Referring to the controversy stirred by his recent initiative for dialogue with the regime, Khatib said “differences are normal” within the position, adding the Syrian regime is missing out on a golden opportunity presented in his dialogue initiative.
Khatib had said he was willing to hold talks with Assad’s representatives in rebel-held areas of northern Syria to try to end a conflict that has killed about 60,000 people.
The aim of the talks would be to find a way for Assad to leave power with the “minimum of bloodshed and destruction”, Khatib said in a statement published on his Facebook page.
Sources in the coalition, an umbrella group of opposition political forces, said that Khatib, a moderate cleric from Damascus, met international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Cairo on Sunday.
Brahimi played a main role in organizing meetings between Khatib and the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, Assad’s main supporters, in Munich last week.
The sources said that in their talks on Sunday the two men addressed the question of whether the coalition would formally endorse Khatib’s peace initiative.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which controls a large bloc within the Islamist-dominated coalition, is against the initiative.
But the Brotherhood, the only organized political force in the opposition, is unlikely to challenge Khatib’s authority directly, with his initiative gaining popularity in Syria, the sources said.
The Syrian authorities have not responded directly to Khatib’s initiative -- formulated in broad terms last month. But Information Minister Amran al-Zubi on Friday repeated the government’s line that the opposition was welcome to come to Damascus to discuss Syria’s future in line with Assad’s proposals for a national dialogue.
Khatib has headed the Syrian National Coalition since it was founded last December in Qatar with Western and Gulf backing. He has quietly built a student following and links with civic and religious figures across Syria.