Turkish FM arrives at Syria opposition talks in Istanbul

AFP , Wednesday 29 May 2013

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, arrives at Istanbul meeting convened by Syria's divided opposition

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrived Wednesday at a stalled meeting of Syria's divided opposition in Istanbul, in what is likely an effort to push for more progress at talks deadlocked by infighting.

US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and a top French diplomat on Syria also arrived at the meeting of the main opposition National Coalition, which has failed to find common ground on key issues including whether to take part in a peace conference proposed by the United States and Russia.

Veteran Syrian dissident Michel Kilo also arrived at the Istanbul hotel alongside a top Saudi official.

Saudi Arabia wants the Coalition to expand in order to water down the influence of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and has backed Kilo's bid to join the opposition group.

Opponents supported by regional rival Qatar, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have resisted the Saudis' move.

A week into the chaotic meeting Istanbul meeting, dissidents have failed to agree on any of the key talking points they were scheduled to agree on, chief among them the proposed peace conference that Washington and Moscow are trying to organise in Geneva next month.

The meeting has been stalled by what dissidents have described as conflicting international pressures on the Coalition.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Turkey and the United States all back the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but have conflicting visions for the National Coalition.

Amid the competing bids for influence, the opposition has failed to find a united front on how to move forward.

"Things are not moving. The opposition has hit its worst crisis yet," said a Coalition member on condition of anonymity.

The Istanbul meeting was also supposed to choose a new Coalition president, agree on an interim government and vote in new members to join the group, as well as reach a decision on the proposed Geneva conference.

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