Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Ahmed Al-Jarba, held a meeting with 30 senior Free Syrian Army (FSA) leaders in Istanbul on Thursday in a bid to resolve disputes over the Syrian opposition’s participation in prospective Geneva II talks.
During the meeting, the FSA Supreme Military Council issued a statement confirming that the SNC is the only legitimate civilian authority representing the Syrian people, in a step that defused tensions after 13 battalions threatened to withdraw their recognition of the SNC.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, SNC spokesman Luay Al-Safi denied any disagreement with the FSA over the issue of participation in Geneva II, adding this was a “misunderstanding” on the part of the armed rebels.
Safi said that the FSA had “no intention to withdraw recognition from the SNC as the representative of the Syrian opposition forces.”
He also said there is a prevailing sense of “despair” among the rebels on the ground due to “a lack of sophisticated military equipment,” adding that the FSA members who met with Jarba “called on him to raise the level of coordination,” between the two sides.
Safi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the objective of the meeting was “to listen to field commanders and clarify the stance of the SNC towards the Syrian revolution, particularly the issue of participation in Geneva II.”
The meeting came following the FSA’s rejection negotiating with the Assad regime at the Geneva talks.
When asked whether the SNC had decided on the issue of participation, Safi said: “No final decision has yet been made, and the issue will be put to the vote in the General Council of the SNC.”
“The SNC welcomes a political solution that leads to a transfer of power and forms a transitional government with full military and security powers, precluding Bashar Al-Assad and his security and political team,” Safi added.
Meanwhile, a group of anti-Assad rebel groups in Hama issued a statement announcing that any party “sitting with the regime on the negotiating table, whether in Geneva or elsewhere, does not represent the Syrian people.”
Almost all of the rebel groups fighting to overthrow Assad in Syria are represented by the the FSA with the exception of the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.