Syrian opposition Coalition will hold leadership elections Monday under a strict media blackout, opposition sources said Friday, as preparations for rival opposition talks were also underway..
The bloc, meeting in Turkey, will hold elections for president, secretary-general and political bureau. It will also try to forge a position on attendance at the scheduled internationally backed peace conference on Syria, dubbed “Geneva-2,” to be held in Switzerland on Jan. 22.
The current president of the coalition "Ahmad al-Jarba" who took up the post in July with Saudi backing, will run for a second term, his chief of staff said, adding that "nominations will be made for the presidency at the meeting itself and a decision made on the 6th”.
For the first time, media and other guests will not be able to attend the meeting, to be held at an undisclosed location outside of Istanbul. Mobile phones will also be banned in an effort to stem rumors and leaks that have been the cause of “distraction” in the past, Aqbiq said.
The polls are considered crucial ahead of a decision on whether or not the coalition will attend the Geneva talks and under what conditions.
The conference, to be held in Cordoba, is being touted by attendees as a session of national unity talks to build consensus on attendance at Geneva, buttressed by a range of representatives from across the opposition spectrum, including members of the coalition, and the “internal opposition” the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), which operates inside Syria.
Crucially, attendees said they are hoping that the Islamic Front will attend the Geneva meeting, although as yet there has been no response to the invitation.
“There are several problems – one is that the Islamic Front doesn’t recognize the coalition” said veteran dissident and coalition member Kamal Labwani, adding“but we need them. They represent 40 percent of Syrians on the ground. They have to be part of the political process”.
Labwani said that the purpose of the Cordoba meeting was not to create more division or produce a rival to the coalition, but “to unify the opposition and form one stance on Geneva.”
Al-Jarba will not attend the Cordoba meeting, Aqbiq said, but confirmed that he had recently met in Cairo with leaders from the NCC, Hassan Abdel-Azim and Haitham Mannaa, without elaborating.