CAIRO (AP) — The head of the Arab League called Monday for the fragmented Syrian opposition to unite and said a U.N.-brokered plan for a transitional government in Syria fell short of expectations.
Speaking at the start of a two-day conference that brought together some 250 members of the Syrian opposition, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby urged them not to waste the chance presented by the meeting to overcome their differences and band together to help lift Syria out of its crisis.
"There is an opportunity before the conference of Syrian opposition today that must be seized, and I say and repeat that this opportunity must not be wasted under any circumstance," he said. "The sacrifices of the Syrian people are bigger than us and more valuable than any narrow differences or factional disputes."
More than one year into the Syrian revolt, the opposition is still hobbled by infighting, although in general the disparate groups agree that President Bashar Assad should have no role in a transitional period. One main sticking point is how to achieve a peace plan that would end the bloodshed and Assad's authoritarian rule. While some activists have called for international intervention in Syria, others have rejected the idea.
The meeting in Cairo brought together a host of opposition factions — including members of the Syrian National Council and the Local Coordination Committees — to try to agree on a united body to represent them, as well as to work out a plan for ending a conflict that activists say has killed at least 14,000 people since March 2011.
"We hope to walk out with one voice to have a national agreement with outlines of a transitional plan that will draw the way forward," said Reema Flaihan, the head of the planning committee for the conference.
The main rebel group fighting Syrian government forces on the ground, the Free Syrian Army, was not represented at the talks. Faiz Amru, a member of the Joint Military Command, which is affiliated with the FSA, said the Cairo meeting was purely political, so rebels were not invited.