The conference was organized by The National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCC), one of the Syrian opposition’s most moderate movements. The NCC calls for a diplomatic solution of the Syrian crisis, something that the NTC says should be tackled without foreign interference and should see the ouster of President Bashar Assad. In Moscow, Middle East expert Said Gafurov remains cautiously optimistic on the results of the Rome conference.
"In any case, the gathering will contribute to resolving the Syrian gridlock," Gafurov says. "Holding the conference is an important step because it may help participants to sit down for parleys with the government. It’s hard to say whether the conference will see any breakthroughs, but I don’t rule out that the gathering will at least pave the way for isolating irreconcilable militants."
The ongoing civil war in Syria undermines the sides’ efforts to arrive at a political accommodation, according to Yevgeny Satanovsky, head of the Moscow-based Institute for Middle Eastern and Israeli Studies.
"Some opposition activists are really poised for talks free from foreign interference," Satanovsky says. "Most opposition figures, including those from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), are oriented towards outside forces and the fall of the Assad regime. They call for the physical liquidation of President Assad and his family members, as well as representatives of religious and confessional minorities whom they describe as “heretics”.
The FSA has refused to recognize the Rome conference, referring to its armed struggle against government troops and efforts to create a radical Islam-leaning state in Syria. This stance runs counter to those of ordinary Syrians, says Said Gafurov.
"Representatives of the FSA want power, not democracy," Gafurov says. "Roughly speaking, they are loath to consider the fact that at least 60 percent of the Syrian population support Bashar Assad. The FSA looks to impose its will on Syrians by referring to the use of force, which is why any attempts to start peace talks finally come to a flop."
The Rome gathering’s goal is to pave the way for holding a major conference of the internal and external Syrian opposition, scheduled for later this month in Cairo. The upcoming conference is seen by many as another chance for Damascus to start a real dialogue with the opposition.