Opposition group calls for safe zones inside Syria


Syrian National Coalition President Khaled Khoja also contradicts other coalition members who said they won’t participate in Geneva peace talks.

ISTANBUL – It is necessary to establish safe zones inside Syria to protect Syrians from Bashar al-Assad regime attacks, Daesh and other extremist organizations, Syrian National Coalition President Khaled Khoja has said.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency Monday, Khoja mentioned the coalition members’ last visit to the U.S.

“The coalition in its last visit to the U.S. had asked for establishing secured areas, strengthening the Free Syria Army, local councils, interim government and allowing refugees to return to those areas,” he said.

He said that their demands were aimed at protecting the Syrian people from Assad regime’s shelling, which would facilitate a transitional period to establish a civilian state on the basis of pluralism; with participation of the interim government, Free Syrian Army and civil organizations.

Khoja also said that the coalition would participate in peace talks in Geneva, contradicting other coalition members who said they won’t participate.

The Syrian National Coalition Secretary-General Yahya Maktabi told Anadolu Agency Monday that the coalition would not participate in the ongoing talks in Geneva and another planned conference in Cairo next week. Maktabi said that the decision was made because the majority of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s team allegedly “favored the Syrian regime” and that the coalition was “being treated like any other opposition group.”

The Istanbul-based Syrian National Coalition was one of the main parties representing the Syrian opposition in the first and second Geneva conferences in 2012 and 2014 respectively. However, the group appeared to gradually lose touch with developments on the ground, particularly after the outbreak of Daesh terrorist organization that ravaged Iraq and Syria.

In January 2014, the coalition’s threat to abandon the upcoming UN-hosted talks in Geneva after a last-minute invitation to Iran had resonated enough with UN officials to prompt a withdrawal of the invite.

According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, also known as the Syrian National Coalition, is a coalition of opposition groups formed in Doha, Qatar, in November 2012.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces began in 2011, according to the UN.