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."
The Tuwal district of Jazan, on the Saudi frontier with Yemen, came under fire on Thursday afternoon, wounding the border guard corporal, a ministry statement said.
"It is well into its terrible descent into the pitiless and merciless abyss of a humanitarian catastrophe unlike any we have witnessed in Syria," said the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.
A Cairo court has approved the redrawing of the maritime boundary between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Thursday, according to a report in Egypt’s state TV news portal Egynews.
Phone call dominated by violence in Aleppo plus Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria
Turkish foreign minister insists any joint efforts must contain political solution, ceasefire
U.S. supports extremism by refusing to collaborate with Russia on fight against ISIL, Deputy Russian FM says
Funeral of former Israeli PM Shimon Peres – who passed away Wednesday – to be held same day
Russia said Wednesday it was ready to relaunch talks in Geneva with the United States following the collapse of a ceasefire.
"I'm afraid that this bill will have dire strategic implications" for the United States, Salman al-Ansari, the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), said.
Government is 17th since Jordan's King Abdullah II took throne in 1999
The UN Chief has condemned the recent attacks saying that those responsible have turned Syria into a slaughter house
Currently, over 7,000 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli prisons
They were savouring more than just the late September sun: it was their first normal schoolday after two years of brutal jihadist rule over their hometown.
Aleppo’s opposition-held Al-Mashhad district struck by vacuum bombs, local civil defense official says
Liberated Syrian town sees return of former residents sheltering in Turkey