Syrian Opposition Leader Resigns In Frustration

Mar 24, 2013
Originally published on March 24, 2013 1:55 pm

Update at 3:52 p.m. ET.: Kerry Reacts

Speaking in Baghdad, Secretary of State John Kerry responded to news of Khatib's resignation, saying it "is not a surprise."

"It's almost inevitable, in the transition of a group such as the opposition, for these kinds of changes to take place as it evolves," he said.

Here's more from his comments:

"We view this as a continuum. It's not about one person. It's about President Assad. It's about a regime that is killing its own people. It's about an opposition that is bigger than one person. And that opposition will continue, and I am confident personally that ultimately, President Assad is going to either negotiate his way out of office through the Geneva process, or, if he leaves people no choice, the opposition will forcibly change this regime. But I think that is going to continue, and the United States will continue to support the opposition."

Update at 1:41 p.m. ET: Resignation Rejected

Not so fast, the Syrian National Coalition says. It rejects Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib's resignation as president of the opposition group, and is saying he'll continue as president. The coalition's press office released a statement Sunday:

"Mr. Al-Khatib has led the Syria National Coalition at a very critical stage. He has pushed the Coalition forward skillfully, and has gained popularity and acceptance among the Syrian People.

"The presidential office of the Coalition did not accept the resignation of Mr. Moaz Al-Khatib, and asked the General Assembly to decide on this subject.

"The members of the General Assembly did not accept his resignation too. And, they are asking Mr. Moaz Al-Khatib to go back to his work as the president of the Coalition."

Our Original Post

The president of the Syrian National Coalition has resigned. Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib posted his resignation to Facebook, criticizing the international community for not doing enough to stem the two-year-long crisis:

"Everything that has happened to the Syrian people, from the destruction of their infrastructure, the arrest of tens of thousands of Syrians, the displacement of hundreds of thousands people, and other tragedies, were not enough to take an international decision to allow the Syrian people to defend themselves."

Khatib said he was following through with a promise he made when he took on the job of president last November, to quit if "things reached some red lines."

Though those lines went unspecified, his sudden resignation follows the selection of U.S. citizen and activist Ghassan Hitto to be prime minister of an interim opposition government earlier last week. That interim government has yet to be formed, but Khatib reportedly rejects the idea. The BBC's Jim Muir notes:

"Mr al-Khatib was in principle against the idea of such an entity - which would further dim any hope for the surprise offer he launched at the end of January of dialogue with representatives of the regime."

The Syrian National Council is the main opposition against the Assad regime. In his statement on Sunday, Khatib said vacating his post as president would allow him to "work freely," with "the freedom that cannot be provided within the official institutions."

Also opposed to the interim prime minister is the Free Syrian Army, which declared on Sunday that it would not recognize Hitto.

Both events are setbacks for the goal of uniting Syria's opposition groups in the effort to topple President Bashar Assad. They also dampen the announcement by the Arab League on Sunday that it would give Syria's seat to a representative of the opposition.

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