Syrian rebels agree to join forces with pro-Turkey Islamic opposition

Special to

ANKARA — Syria’s new rebel army and the Islamic opposition
are said to have agreed to cooperate in the revolt against President Bashar

The Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army have agreed to
coordinate operations amid a NATO and Arab League international effort to
increase pressure on the Assad regime. Opposition sources said Turkey
pressed the two Syrian groups to cooperate, including defining
responsibilities as well as goals.

Burhan Ghalioun, leader of the Syrian National Council. /Reuters

“The aim was to create a joint action plan,” Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the SNC Executive Committee, said.

On Dec. 3, at least 25 people were killed in fighting between rebels and Assad forces near the Syrian-Turkish border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least seven military and security troops were among the casualties.

“Seven were killed from the army and regime security forces, including an army officer,” Syrian Observatory said. “Three civilians and five defectors were also killed.”

In an interview to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Ramadan said the two groups agreed that SNC would focus on civilian protests while FSA builds a force to topple the regime in Damascus. He said the two groups, which met on
Nov. 28 along the Syrian-Turkish border, also established an eight-member
commission to coordinate operations.

SNC has been regarded as part of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and
regarded as close to the Turkish government. FSA, led by former Syrian Army
Col. Riad Assad, comprises a leadership that was deemed secular and more
supportive of the West.

The sources said the agreement was meant to ensure that Turkey
facilitate FSA operations against the Assad regime. They said Turkey has
encouraged SNC, established in Istanbul in September, to form a
Brotherhood-aligned rebel force to rival FSA.

The Washington-based Reform Party of Syria reported that Ankara froze
the bank accounts of FSA in Turkey. The pro-Western RPS asserted that
Erdogan has been concerned that the rebel army would be recognized as a
secular alternative to the Assad regime.

“The popularity of the Free Syrian Army inside Syria is a sore issue
with Erdogan and the MB,” RPS said. “From a strategic point of view, control
of the Free Syrian Army by the MB is an essential component it must not fail

Hurriyet reported that FSA pledged to end attacks on the Assad regime
and limit operations to those deemed defensive. FSA has claimed 20,000
fighters, most of them deserters from the Syrian Army.

“The Free Syrian Army is not going to organize any attacks against the
regime anymore,” Ramadan said. “Their armed resistance will strictly aim at
defending themselves and the Syrian people.”

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