London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) elected Ahmad Jarba as its president on Saturday following a close run-off with businessman Mustafa Al-Sabbagh.
The Syrian opposition met in Istanbul on Saturday to elect a new leader following the resignation of former president Moaz Alkhatib earlier this year. No opposition candidate was able to emerge with a majority during an early morning ballot, leading to a run-off vote between Jabra and Sabbagh. Jarba ultimately emerged with 55 votes, edging out SNC secretary-general Mustafa Al-Sabbagh who obtained 52 votes.
Speaking following the vote, senior SNC official Adib Shishakly told Reuters, “A change was needed,” adding, “the old leadership of the coalition had failed to offer the Syrian people anything substantial and was preoccupied with internal politics. Ahmad Jarba is willing to work with everybody.”
Jarba is a well-known tribal figure from the eastern province of Hasaka and who represents the faction of Syrian veteran secular dissident Michel Kilo. The SNC is deeply divided into three major camps; the Jarba camp, the Sabbagh camp, and the Muslim Brotherhood camp.
Muslim Brotherhood representative Farouk Tayfur was elected as one of the two SNC vice-presidents, along with well-known Syrian opposition activist Suheir Atassi.
Anas Al Abd, head of the Justice and Development movement, was elected as SNC secretary-general, replacing Sabbagh.
The SNC urged the international community to take action to protect civilians in the besieged city of Homs and Daraa on Friday. The SNC appealed to the UN and Friends of Syria group “to intervene immediately” and provide food and medicine to the two cities.
Syrian troops advanced into rebel-held areas of the city of Homs on Saturday, occupying buildings and utilizing artillery to drive out opposition fighters.
Saturday’s advance into Khaldiyeh district is the first significant gain for Assad regime forces in Syria’s third-largest city in more than a year.
The deeply divided UN Security Council failed to approve a statement calling on Syria to facilitate immediate access to 2,500 civilians trapped in Homs on Saturday, after Russia complained about the language.
More than 93,000 people have been killed in the more-than two year conflict in Syria. The Syrian revolution initially began as peaceful protests which quickly escalated into an armed revolt after the Syrian opposition took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown.