World Bulletin / News Desk
Members of Syria's internal opposition held a rare meeting in Damascus on Sunday to call for a peaceful end to President Bashar al-Assad's rule, after months of fighting in which thousands have been killed.
The meeting went ahead with the blessing of authorities despite the arrest of several opposition figures in recent days and accusations from rebel forces that it gave a false signal that Assad is seeking a political solution to Syria's crisis.
Rajaa Nasser, one of the organisers of the Syria Salvation Conference, called for "an immediate halt to the shooting, a halt to the brutal and barbaric shelling, a truce and a pause for the fighters."
Such a truce could "open the way for a political process ... which guarantees a radical political change, an end to the current regime and a serious and genuine democracy," Nasser told the meeting organised by the internal opposition's main umbrella group, the National Coordination Body.
Activists say 27,000 people have been killed in Syria since protests against Assad erupted in March last year, most of them in the last few months as the uprising turned into a violent insurgency.
"The main goal now is to put an immediate end to the violence in Syria, whether from the government side or the armed groups," Russia's ambassador Azamat Kulmukhametov said.
"The other goal is no less important, to convert the current confrontation ... into a peaceful political solution."
Assad has vowed to crush rebel fighters, who he portrays as foreign-backed terrorists, but says he accepts some opposition figures who call for a peaceful transition from a one-party state to democracy. His allies have pointed to the internal opposition as a sign Assad is serious about reform.
Members of the internal opposition, which includes outspoken critics of Assad who have spent years in jail, said Moscow and Beijing promised to exert influence to protect Sunday's meeting.
But eight members of the National Coordination Body were detained by Syrian security forces last week, including three who were seized outside Damascus airport after they returned from a trip to China, the group's spokesman said.
The internal opposition has been accused of being too passive by rebel fighters and members of the largely foreign-based Syrian National Council, a political group calling for the international community to arm rebel factions.
"This is not a real opposition in Syria. This opposition is just the other face of the same coin," a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army said.
"It is just a silly plot to mislead the international community to think there is a negotiation in place. They cannot be successful in finding an end to the civil war."
Turkey has quality human resources, outstanding capabilities, high-class products, says Kuwaiti minister
Activist is vocal opponent of controversial border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia
Ship dispatched by Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) carries 10,000 tons of supplies to blockaded enclave
U.S. Statement Department questioned motives of Gulf allies for their blockade on Qatar
Signaling Washington's mounting frustration at Riyadh's role in the crisis, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called into question whether Qatar's alleged support for terrorism is its true cause.
Arrests come two weeks after terrorist group claims responsibility for deadly twin attacks in Tehran
Transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi sovereignty would make Riyadh party to 1979 Egypt-Israel peace agreement, MP says
Javad Zarif is slated to meet Mauritanian president, foreign minister to discuss bilateral ties, regional developments
Three small boats entered Saudi territorial waters at about 8:30 pm on Friday and "headed at speed towards platforms of (the) Saudi oil field of Marjan", a government statement said.
The soldiers, part of the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) which is headquartered in Bahrain, had been asked to leave the coalition and may depart within the next 48 hours, the source told AFP.
Syrian jet dropped bombs near U.S. partners forces, anti-ISIL coalition says
Strikes come after last week's deadly attacks in Tehran were claimed by terror network
Most of the casualties worked in the Mashnaq market in the rebel-controlled Saada province on the Saudi border, an official at a nearby hospital told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Sunday's verdicts are binding and cannot be appealed
"A bomb buried by the side of the road exploded" as the vehicle drove by in the early hours of the morning, the ministry said in a statement.