The leader of Syria’s main opposition group urged President Bashar Assad on Monday to respond to his offer for a dialogue, insisting he is ready to sit down with members of the regime despite sharp criticism from some of his colleagues.
Mouaz al-Khatib, leader of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, said he is extending his hand to the regime to “facilitate its peaceful departure.” And some anti-regime activists are behind him, threatening even deeper fractures in the already divided movement to oust Assad.
Al-Khatib’s offer, first made last week, marks a departure from the mainstream opposition’s narrative insisting that Assad step down before any talks. It has angered some of his colleagues who accuse him of acting unilaterally.
It is likely to be rejected by Syrian officials who insist Assad will stay in power at least until his term ends in mid-2014. And even if accepted, he will likely not have broad enough backing among the opposition to make any deal meaningful.
More than 60,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began almost two years ago.
Al-Khatib’s overture reflects the realization among some opposition leaders that a victory is unlikely to be achieved on the battlefield as well as disillusionment with an international community that has largely failed to stem the bloodshed and has balked at military intervention to help topple Assad.
There has been no comment from Syrian officials on al-Khatib’s initiative last week or his latest comments.