Disparate Syrian opposition groups, including several Islamist militant representatives, met for the first time in the Spanish city of Cordoba to seek common ground ahead of peace talks Syrian government later this month.
After nearly three years of conflict the opposition has fractured into competing groups with different regional backers and the West is pushing to gather a unified body of opposition members to attend talks on Jan. 22, dubbed "Geneva -2".
The two-day meeting in Spain brings together members of the Western-backed opposition coalition but also delegates from opposition groups inside Syria who are distrusted by many exiled opposition members.
Kamal Labwani said "most colors from Syria are represented here. There is even one person from Syrian security who supports Syrian government ", adding "we want them to be here. We will listen to them". Differences between the delegates were too deep to bridge at the meeting, he added, but it would aim to create a dialogue among them.
At least three members of the so called Islamic Front had also come, he said. The Front is made up of seven Islamist brigades which represent a large portion of militants on the ground and reject the authority of the National Coalition.
Diplomats said the gathering is recognition that the divided opposition coalition – which has yet to formally accept an invitation to attend "Geneva-2"– is losing influence on the ground and a more comprehensive grouping is needed ahead of the talks.
Militants from the Western-backed al-Hr militia were also at the meeting in Cordoba.
Opposition figure Fawaz Tello, one of the meeting’s organizers, said Cordoba was prepared three months ago to encompass the "whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition. To sit together and define a mutual vision", adding "this isn't for the election of another leadership or to decide the delegates for Geneva-2".