Watching the Friends of Syria Conference in Paris today it was encouraging to see the live coverage of some of the speeches on the larger TV networks, such as the BBC and Al Jazeera. Compared to a conference held in Cairo earlier the week (July 03) made up of several opposition groups, today’s Paris meeting appeared to present a more organized opposition that succeeding in attracting international attention. With big hitters such as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Secretary William Hague attending the meeting, the Friends of Syria appear to have gained legitimacy as the voice of criticism against the Syrian regime.
However, despite all the positive statements of support and assistance given at today’s conference, the overall disunity of the Syrian opposition was not fully addressed. The Friends of Syria only represents one meeting of the Syrian opposition, with other having being held in Cairo and Turkey. Only Clinton touched upon this issue by ending her speech in Paris saying it was “important for the opposition to remain united”.
This is easier said than done. The meeting earlier this week in Cairo (Tuesday 03 July) is a perfect example of this. Attended by the many groups opposing the Syrian government, the meeting ended in farce, marred by walkouts, physical violence and disagreement. With so many divisions in Syria, it could be argued that these meetings mirror the reality in Syria. The various divisions in Syria; Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Druze, Kurd to name some, make up the true nature of Syria, that are only calm due to a peace that is enforced by Bashar al Assad (though this is disintegrating with the current conflict).
But for the international community, the feigned unity and calm seen in the Friends of Syria conferences is attractive to deal with, but for the future, if Syria’s diversity is not acknowledged and addressed by the international community and the Syrian opposition, creating a new post Assad Syria will prove challenging to say the least.
J Robinson – Twitter: @jprobinsons