Syrian rebels turn on their political leadership after EU lifts weapons embargo

Fighters want more of their members added to exiled Syrian National Coalition

Syrian rebel groups have strongly criticised their political leadership outside Syria, saying it has no real connection to the rebellion and calling for half of its members to be drawn from fighters inside the country.

The rebuke follows a chaotic week for the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and is likely to further undermine the standing of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which has been treated by its foreign backers as if it were capable of replacing Mr Assad and its regime.

A meeting of the exiled SNC in Istanbul has still not decided if it will attend a peace conference in Geneva, tentatively planned for June, and, if so, who should attend. It is also deadlocked about Western-supported proposals to broaden the membership of the 60-member coalition with more secular representatives.

The statement issued in the name of the Revolutionary Movement in Syria said that the failure of the opposition had opened the door to “blatant interference” by outside powers. This is probably a reference primarily to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which support different opposition factions; Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, which is regarded with suspicion by the Saudis.

As serious diplomatic moves aimed at a negotiated settlement initiated by the US and Russia begin, the total disarray and rancorous disagreements of the Syrian opposition will seriously hamper efforts by their foreign backers to support them as the new leadership of Syria.

The Revolutionary Movement of Syria said it could not “bestow legitimacy upon any political body that subverts the revolution”. Moaz al-Khatib, the former leader of the coalition, said he had stepped down because he had no influence and the group was a proxy for Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The chaos in opposition ranks is also likely to discredit the EU decision to end the arms embargo on supplying weapons to the rebels. Russia warned that the decision would damage plans for peace talks being made by Russia and the US. In response, Russia has already said it will send ground-to-air S-300 missiles to Syria, while Israel has said it will act to stop their delivery.

Meanwhile, inside Syria elite troops are being sent to reinforce the government offensive against the town of Qusayr outside Homs, near the Lebanese border.

Rebels there have been under heavy attack for a week but are still holding out in parts of the town, which is heavily damaged. Fighters from Hezbollah in Lebanon are for the first time playing a central and open role in the fighting, which has also been joined, on the rebel side, by Sunni fighters from Lebanon.

In a further development, Britain said it had sent a letter to  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with new information of alleged chemical-weapons use by the Syrian government. Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said his Government has continued to provide new information to the UN.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue