AMMAN - Opposition campaigners from Syrian President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect will meet this weekend to support a democratic alternative to his rule and try to distance the community from wholesale association with the government's attempts to crush a two-year uprising.
The two-day meeting in Cairo, the first by Alawites supportive of the revolt, will draft a declaration committing to a united Syria and inviting the mainstream opposition to cooperate on preventing sectarian bloodletting if Assad falls and agree on a transitional justice framework, organizers said.
As the war takes on an increasingly sectarian bent, severing the Alawite fate from that of Assad could be crucial for the survival of the community, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that comprises about 10 percent of Syria's population.
"The meeting is happening almost two years late, but it will help disassociate the sect from Assad. Every effort is needed now to prevent a wide-scale sectarian bloodbath when Assad eventually goes, in which the Alawites would be the main losers," a Western diplomat said.