Syrian opposition factions will gather in the Egyptian capital on Monday for talks aimed at forming a new coalition as an alternative to an exiled Western-back alliance. More than 200 figures from the armed and civilian opposition factions are to attend the June 8-9 gathering and discuss a roadmap aimed at ending the four-year war in Syria. The new grouping would offer an alternative to the National Coalition, the exiled opposition bloc that is widely recognized and supported by Western and Arab countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. "Arab, Kurdish and all faiths will attend the meeting to elect a political committee to adopt a roadmap and a policy charter," Haytham Manna, a veteran opposition figure and a key organizer of the event, told Agence France-Presse last month. The new coalition would be called the Syrian National Opposition and would be "totally different" from the National Coalition, he said. "It will be a Syrian-Syrian meeting, 100 percent financed by us, not controlled by anyone, and managed by someone with a pure Syrian agenda," Manna said of the June conference. Egypt confirmed the meeting, saying it would be a gathering of "broad Syrian opposition and national forces." The objective of the conference was to "express a broader vision of the Syrian opposition spectrum... to work towards ending the Syrian crisis," said the foreign ministry. Manna said Egypt would only host the conference and "not interfere" in it. He said the new grouping would be ready to negotiate with representatives of President Bashar al-Assad's government. The talks would be "on the basis of the Geneva declaration, which is based on the transfer of all military and civilian authorities... to a transitional government," he said.
Members of the new group would also meet with the U.N. mediator for Syria, Stefan de Mistura, after the Cairo conference. The conference was planned during a meeting in January that was attended by the opposition tolerated in Damascus, as well as members of the exiled National Coalition.
In March 2011, Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voice against the dictatorship. However, the regime's response was not as peaceful as the protests, and the country was subsequently dragged into a deadly civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government. The Syrian civil war has now entered its fifth year and has caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people with at least 60,000 missing. The war has also displaced nearly 10 million people. While international and regional powers continue endless discussions, it is reported that the Syrian regime continues to use chemical weapons. About 13.6 million people, equivalent to the population of London, have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, many without food or shelter, the U.N. refugee agency revealed.