Crowd attacks Syrian opposition leader over Turkey reconciliation push

Crowd attacks Syrian opposition leader over Turkey reconciliation push
The Turkish plans for reconcilation with Assad has been meet by widespread opposition from Syrians. Ankara has supported anti-Assad forces since 2011 but is now changing direction.
2 min read
Demonstrators is north of Syria rally against a potential rapprochement between Ankara and the Syrian regime.(Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP via Getty Images)

Angry protesters in Syria’s rebel-held area of Azaz rallied Friday against reconciliation attempts between Turkey and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and scuffled with the head of the Turkey-based opposition Syrian National Council, Salem Al-Meslet.

The crowd of several dozen demonstrators in the rebel-held town of Azaz first chanted slogans against the political efforts, then shouted abuse Meslet who showed up at the gathering.

The protesters shouted “thug” and “traitor” at Meslet, who took part in past Syrian peace talks between the opposition and the government that were held over the years in Geneva. Those talks failed to lead to any substantial peace agreement.

Several men then chased Meslet down a street and slapped him. He was not seriously hurt and managed to flee from the scene as the men banged on his car.

Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war nearly 12 years ago, Ankara has supported anti-Assad forces and the Syrian opposition.

In a videotaped statement, Meslet later said he went to the rally after attending Friday’s prayers at a local mosque. He said he tried to explain to the young men protesting that “we reject Assad and his crimes.”

Russia has long been pressing for a reconciliation between Turkey and the Syrian regime — Moscow’s close ally — which have been on opposite sides in the conflict.


The efforts toward a Turkish-Syrian regime reconciliation also comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who faces presidential and parliamentary elections in June — is under intense pressure at home to send Syrian refugees back. Anti-refugee sentiment is rising in Turkey amid an economic crisis.

The Syrian conflict, which began with the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests by Assad, has killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed large parts of the country. It has also displaced half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million. Most of the casualties have been due to regime bombardment of civilian areas.

Separately, in neighboring Lebanon, the Lebanese army said Friday that troops freed two Syrian children kidnapped by criminals along the Lebanon-Syria border since last October. The case had been followed closely in Lebanon where the kidnappers had demanded $350,000 in ransom and released videos showing the children being tortured.

Lebanon is home to nearly 2 million Syrian refugees who fled the conflict in the neighboring country.