U.S. Says Damascus Opposition Meeting 'Significant'
The United States termed as "significant" a Syrian opposition meeting in Damascus where around 160 activists called for democracy and a peaceful end to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"This is a significant event," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"It's the first meeting of this kind in many decades. About 160 people are attending it. We don't have any outcomes yet but it is the first meeting of opposition figures in Syria," he said.
The dissidents pledged to press ahead with a "peaceful uprising for freedom" until the creation of a "democratic state."
The authorities, meanwhile, invited the opposition to a July 10 meeting to discuss key changes to the constitution amid the wave of unrest that has pitted pro-democracy protesters against security forces since mid-March.
"There are two ways forward -- the first a clear and non-negotiable move to a peaceful transition to democracy which would rescue our country and our people," opposition activist Munzer Khaddam told the Damascus meeting.
"The alternative is a road that leads into the unknown and which will destroy everyone," he said.
Opposition figures, all independent of any party affiliation, had gathered in a Damascus hotel to discuss a way out of crisis in a public meeting they said was unprecedented in five decades of iron-fisted Baath rule.
In a document they called a "pledge," the participants vowed to remain "part of Syria's peaceful uprising for freedom and democracy and pluralism to establish a democratic state through peaceful means."
They said they rejected "resorting to security measures to solve the deep structural crisis that Syria is suffering," and condemned "any discourse or behavior that divides Syrians on the basis of race or religion."
They also rejected "any foreign intervention in Syria's affairs" and urged "the nation's interests and the freedom of citizens" be put "above any other interest" for the sake of a "free, democratic and secure" Syria.