Syrian rebel chief urges fighters to unite ranks

The Supreme Military Council reaffirms that it is working to secure military and relief supplies to the fighters on the ground and to ward off strife.

By Barbara Surk (AP)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sat 21 Dec 2013, 11:39 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:33 PM

The commander of Syria’s main Western-backed rebel group has urged all opposition fighters to join ranks in the struggle against President Bashar Assad’s forces, pledging to do everything he can to stave off rebel infighting.

In remarks broadcast on Friday by Al Arabiya, Gen. Salim Idris said all rebels in Syria who believe in the “goals of the revolution” are “our brothers”. Idris spoke after a meeting late on Thursday in Istanbul with US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford.

His comments suggested he was trying to limit the damage from deadly infighting among moderate and extremist rebel factions ahead of a peace conference for Syria scheduled to be held in Switzerland in January.

The faction that Idris leads, the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army rebel umbrella group, has been dealt a severe blow by the rapid rise of extremist groups in Syria.

Earlier this month, the US and Britain suspended nonlethal military aid to the opposition in Syria, after militants captured warehouses that contained a cache of machine guns and ammunition intended for Idris’ SMC. The incident was an embarrassment to the Syrian opposition, which is struggling to maintain international support as extremists expand their hold across rebel-held territories.

“The Supreme Military Council reaffirms that it is working to secure military and relief supplies to the fighters on the ground and to ward off strife, unite ranks and assimilate all fighters on the ground who believe in the goals of the revolution of the Syrian people,” Idris said. Also on Friday, the UN-Arab League’s envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, met with US and Russian officials to try to agree on which nations should be invited to Syria peace talks in Geneva next month.

Disputes over who should represent the Syrian opposition and government, and whether Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers should be at the table, have blocked previous attempts to bring Syria’s warring sides for peace talks.

Idris has said he will take part in the Geneva talks, but it is still unclear if any other rebel groups will attend. Syria’s government has said it would take part in the talks.

However, the leader of one of the most powerful Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, Jabhat Al Nusra, said in an interview broadcast late on Thursday that his group will not acknowledge anything that comes out of the peace conference.

“Geneva (conference) is an attempt to resuscitate the regime by the international community,” said the man purported to be Abu Mohammed Al Golani, the Nusra Front leader, said in his first-ever interview, broadcast in full late on Wednesday on the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera television.

Al Golani said those who plan to participate in the Geneva conference do not represent the Syrian people.

More news from