A conference of Syrian opposition forces has opened in Damascus amid an escalating armed conflict in the Middle Eastern country.
The conference has been convened on the initiative of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Changes in Syria and is being attended by 15 opposition parties and eight civil society movements.
The ambassadors of Russia, China, Iran and some Arab states that have maintained their diplomatic presence in Syria are also attending the forum.
The conference’s main aim is to secure an “immediate ceasefire” by the conflicting parties and “transfer the armed conflict between the authorities and the opposition into a peaceful political process,” Russian Ambassador to Damascus Azamat Kulmukhametov said in his address to the forum’s participants.
“We are convinced that a dialog without preconditions is the sole way out of the current crisis whose continuation bodes no good either for Syria or for the region as a whole,” he said.
The Arab media have reported the opposition conference will discuss a change of the current Syrian regime, a transition to a civil democratic state and the dangers of the forceful scenario in the country.
The Damascus conference is being held amid disagreements inside the Syrian opposition, with some opposition activists and groups boycotting its work.
The Free Syrian Army, which is fighting against the government forces, has not recognized the conference, saying its participants do not “represent a true opposition and are only another face of the Syrian regime.”
The Syrian conflict has claimed up to 20,000 lives according to estimates by various Syrian opposition groups. The UN estimates the death toll at over 18,000 people. The Syrian authorities say 8,000 were killed.
The West is pushing for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster while Russia and China are trying to prevent outside interference in Syria, saying that the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed.