"Syrian opposition will convene in Antakya to legitimise Al-Qaeda": Report

It is reported that the Syrian jihadist fractions will hold a high-profile convention in Antakya on March 14, during which ‘the Syrian interim government’ supported by Turkey could agree on unification with the “Salvation Government” established by the Al-Qaeda associated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)
Cevlani, the leader of the Al-Qaeda affiliated HTS
Tuesday, 12 March 2019 14:29

According to South Front, London-based Arabic newspaper Elaph reports that the National Syrian Army (partial reorganized fraction of FSA also known as Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army), National Front for Liberation, Syrian Higher Negotiation Committee, National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the Syrian opposition delegation for Astana negotiations, and Syrian Islamic Council will convene in Antakya on 14 March.

Elaph reports that ‘high-level decisions will be taken’ with no further details.

Turkey-based Syrian opposition newspaper Enab Baladi already reports the possibility of a merge between ‘the Syrian interim government’ which is supported by Turkey and holds an office in Gaziantep and HTS.

HTS has been known as Al-Nusra, the main branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria, until 2017. In 2017, Ebu Muhammed el Cevlani, the leader of HTS, declared the separation from Al-Qaeda. However, Eyman el Zevahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, declared that such separation was never approved by Al-Qaeda and HTS was still associated with Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist fractions still function in Syria under the protection of HTS.

It is not a surprise that Turkey has undertaken certain attempts to legitimize HTS. Two months ago, a member of High Negotiations Committee declared their efforts to reorganize HTS as a political party. The same member in fact argued that Turkey sought to solve the Al-Nusra question by reorganizing it as a political party, like Hezbollah in Lebanon.

According to South Front, Turkey’s attempt to legitimize Al-Qaeda will not be welcomed by Damascus or Moscow. South Front further argues that such an attempt will not even be tolerated by the US and Gulf allies, and actually will disadvantage the US’ allies in Syria, significantly Kurdish forces.

According to the South Front, the local observers argue that Turkey seeks de facto partition of Syria by granting the control of northern Syria to a terrorist group.