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Home World News Washington Post World News Crowd attacks Syrian rebel figure for appeasement

Crowd attacks Syrian rebel figure for appeasement

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BEIRUT – Angry protesters in the rebel-held enclave of Syria protested Friday against reconciliation efforts between Turkey and the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and clashed with a local Syrian opposition figure involved in those efforts.

The crowd of several dozen demonstrators in the rebel-held town of Azaz first chanted slogans against the political effort and then shouted swear words at Salem Meslet, head of the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, who appeared at the rally.

The protesters shouted “thug” and “traitor” at Meslet, who took part in previous Syrian opposition-government peace talks held in Geneva over the years. Those talks did not lead to a substantial peace agreement.

Several men then chased Meslet down a street and beat him. He was not seriously injured and managed to flee when the men hit his car.

Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria nearly 12 years ago, Ankara has supported the forces against Assad and the Syrian opposition.

In a videotaped statement, Meslet later said he went to the rally after attending Friday prayers at a local mosque. He said he was trying to explain to the young men protesting that “we reject Assad and his crimes”.

Russia has long pushed for reconciliation between Turkey and the Syrian government, Moscow’s staunch ally, who have been on opposite sides of the conflict.

The efforts for Turkish-Syrian reconciliation also come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who faces presidential and parliamentary elections in June – is under intense pressure at home to return Syrian refugees. Anti-refugee sentiment is rising in Turkey amid an economic crisis.

The civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and devastated large parts of the country. It has also displaced half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million.

Separately, in neighboring Lebanon, the Lebanese army said on Friday that troops released last October two Syrian children abducted by criminals along the Lebanon-Syria border. The case was closely followed in Lebanon, where the kidnappers had demanded a $350,000 ransom and released videos showing the children being tortured.

Lebanon is home to nearly 1 million Syrian refugees who fled the war in the neighboring country.



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