“Syrian Opposition Won’t Attend Geneva II unless It Becomes Militarily Strong”

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare for an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighborhood

The new head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition said he expected advanced weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia to reach militant mercenaries soon, strengthening their currently weak military position.

Ahmad Jarba, who has close links to Saudi Arabia, told Reuters in his first interview since being elected president of the coalition on Saturday that the opposition would not go to a proposed peace conference in Geneva sponsored by the United States and Russia unless its military position improves.

“Geneva in these circumstances is not possible. If we are going to go to Geneva we have to be strong on the ground, unlike the situation now, which is weak,” Jarba said on Sunday after returning from the northern Syrian province of Idlib, where he met commanders of insurgents’ brigades.

Asked if shoulder-fired weapons that could blunt President Bashar al-Assad’s massive advantage in armor and air power would reach the militant groups after Saudi Arabia took a lead role in supporting the opposition in recent weeks, Jarba said: “We are pushing in this direction.”

“I think the situation is better than before. I think these weapons will arrive in Syria soon,” he stated.

“We are working on getting advanced and medium-range weapons to the Free Syrian army and the liberated areas,” he added referring to the regions occupied by the armed opposition groups of foreign mercenaries fighting the Syrian government and people.

Jarba offered Assad’s forces a truce for the duration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Tuesday, to stop fighting in the city of Homs, where armed gangs face a ferocious ground and air onslaught by the Syrian army. There has been no indication that the government is ready to accept such a truce, probable to fears of more military support the opposition might receive from foreign actors.

Homs, 140 km (90 miles) north of Damascus, is situated at a strategic crossing linking the capital with army bases in coastal. The city also links Damascus and the coast with neighboring Lebanon.

“We are staring at a real humanitarian disaster in Homs. Assad, whose military machine was on the verge of defeat, has been propped up by Iran and its Hezbollah proxy,” Jarba said, denying all the massacres committed by his militant groups against the people of Aleppo, Homs, Idlib, Hama, Latakia and Deir Ezzor.

“I will not rest until I procure the advanced weapons needed to hit back at Assad and his allies. … I give myself one month to achieve what I am intent on doing,” Jarba said in an implicit hint at his intend to arm the opposition groups during month of Ramadan and exploit any possible truce period.

Jarba was speaking in Istanbul after a meeting of the so-called Syrian National Coalition, which has little physical presence in Syria and little influence over al-Nusra Front militant brigades that play a major role in the fight against President Assad’s forces.

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