Syrian opposition elects former Turkey head as president -UPDATED

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, also known as the Syrian National Coalition, has elected Khaled Khoja as its new president.

Syrian opposition elects former Turkey head as president -UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Syria's Western-backed political opposition group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, has elected a new presidential committee and a president widely seen as not tied to any of the body's international sponsors.

Despite having tenuous links with fighters on the ground and seen as out of touch with ordinary Syrians, the National Coalition remains one of the main parties in international discussions to find solutions to the almost four-year civil war.

Khaled Khoja takes over as president from Hadi al Bahra, who is considered to have close links with Saudi Arabia. Bahra served for one term and did not run for a second but will be in the political committee.

Khoja said it was unlikely the coaliton would attend peace talks in Russia this month, describing Moscow as "one of the enemies of the Syrian revolution".

Unlike in previous elections, there was no candidate from the Saudi-backed bloc of the National Coalition, which some said was a signal of the decline in interest of the Gulf state in backing the body.

"(The Saudis) scaled back support. They had nothing to offer the democratic bloc so they didn't put forward a candidate," said one Western diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Khoja, a 49-year old Damascus-born doctor and businessman, won 56 votes out of 106 votes cast at a closed meeting in Istanbul on Sunday. The 111-member body also elected a new secretary general and vice presidents.

A vote for the vacant post of secretary-general was postponed, as both candidates, Yahya Mektebi and Cevvad Ebu Hatab, could not secure more than 50 percent support.

Hisam Merve was elected as the coalition's new vice president in the Sunday vote.

Khoja has previously served as the Coalition’s representative in Turkey.

The Istanbul-based Syrian opposition coalition’s General Assembly concluded its 18th session on Sunday, where it discussed the proposals by UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and the results of the Coalition’s recent visits to Cairo and Riyadh.

By 2013, at least 20 states and international organizations, including the U.S., Turkey, Germany, the EU and the Arab League, had recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

More than 190,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict between the Assad regime and opposition forces began in early 2011, according to UN figures published in August 2014.

The role of the vice president reserved for a Kurdish member had not yet been filled, as the Kurdish bloc had not yet presented a new nominee, the National Coalition said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Ocak 2015, 22:42