Syrian opposition groups make new bid to unite against al-Assad

Syrian opposition figures launched a new bid to revive their decade-old campaign against President Bashar al-Assad at talks in Qatar, where a senior leader said they had to “correct” past mistakes.

The political groups, now mainly based abroad, have seen their influence wane in recent years as Iran and Russia steadfastly supported the Syrian president after he instigated a deadly crackdown on protesters in 2011 that quickly descended into a war.

Salem al-Meslet, head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said it was important to “send a message to all Syrians, listen to their advice and make a new plan”.

With international talks on Syria’s future at a deadlock, al-Meslet said a united opposition would also send “an important message to the UN envoy” on the conflict.

The last round of UN-organised peace talks in October failed to make any progress, and special envoy Geir Pedersen highlighted “great mistrust on all sides”.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in November regional nations should avoid getting closer to the Syrian government.

Syria’s war has killed close to half a million people and spurred the displacement of tens of millions.

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