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Syrian Opposition Will Meet In Turkey Soon To Legitimize Al-Qaeda: Reports

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Syrian Opposition Will Meet In Turkey Soon To Legitimize Al-Qaeda: Reports

Abu Mohammad al-Julani, a leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda)

Major groups of the Syrian opposition will hold an extensive meeting in the Turkish city of Antioch on March 14 to take important decisions on the situation in Syria.

The meeting will include the National Syrian Army (NSA), the National Front for Liberation (NFL), the Syrian Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC), the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, The opposition’s delegation to the Astana talks and the Syrian Islamic Council (SIC).

Elaph, a London-based Arabian newspaper, reported that a series of high-level decisions and measures are expected to be announced at the end of the meeting. The outlet didn’t provide any additional information.

However, a recent report by the Syrian Enab Baladi news outlet predicted that opposition forces will announce steps to merge the Turkish-backed Syrian Interim Government with the Salvation Government, which is run by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

HTS, commonly known as the al-Nusra Front, was the main branch of al-Qaeda in Syria up until 2017. Back then, the terrorist group leader, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, announced that the group has parted ways with al-Qaeda.

Despite this announcement, Ayman al-Zawahiri said in late 2017 that al-Qaeda has never released HTS from its pledge of allegiance. Furthermore, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria continued to work under HTS protection.

Even the U.S. rejected this rebranding scheme. Washington’s embassy in Damascus warned from cooperating with the so-called the Salvation Government.

This new attempt to legitimize HTS and its “government” was not a surprise. Two months ago, a source in the HNC told Sputnik news agency that Turkey is working to transform HTS into a political party.

“Turkey is trying to handle the Nusra matter in Syria’s north, and they [the Turks] want to make this group a political group, like Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the source said.

These attempts to legitimize al-Qaeda will not likely settle well with the Damascus government and its allies, especially Moscow. Even the U.S. and its Arab allies will not likely tolerate such step, because it would damage their allies in the region, especially Kurdish forces in Syria.

Local observers believe that Turkey is planning to de facto divide Syria by placing its northern part under the control of a terrorist group. This would kill chances for a political settlement of the conflict.

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