The president of the internationally backed Syrian National Coalition resigned Sunday, the latest victim of infighting between factions of the opposition fighting Syria’s discredited and embattled strongman Bashar Assad.
Moaz al Khatib announced his resignation in a statement on his Facebook page Sunday, according to Syria’s Day Press, saying he was leaving “so that I can work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution.”
His resignation came hours after the Arab League announced that the coalition would be invited to take Syria’s seat at the league’s summit this week in Doha. The government of President Assad was suspended from the league last yearl, leaving its seat vacant.
“The situation in Syria and its dangerous implications for the country and the region requires full support from the Arabs to the Syrian people who are fighting for freedom, dignity and social justice,” said Qatari Prime Minister and summit host Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasem al Thani, according to Gulf News.
Mr. al Khatib was picked as head of the coalition after it was formed in November last year as an umbrella for the sprawling and fractious political groups opposing Mr. Assad. Mr. al Khatib was seen as a moderate, and as a bulwark in the exiled rebel leadership against the rising influence of al Qaeda-linked forces and other Islamic extremists fighting inside Syria.
His resignation follows criticism of his offer to negotiate a handover of power from the Assad regime and a decision by opposition leaders to form a provisional government in exile that will likely erode his authority.
But on Sunday, the largest armed rebel group, the Free Syrian Army announced that it did not recognize the prime minister of the provisional government in exile, Ghassan Hitto, a business executive little known among the opposition.
These developments are a “public manifestation of a continuing, bitter leadership dispute between Syrian Sunni opposition leaders who recently fled Syria and the [longer established factions of] Syrian expatriates and exiles in Europe and the United States,” wrote veteran defense intelligence analyst John McCreary is his Nightwatch daily e-newsletter.