A preparatory meeting of US- and Canada-based Syrian opposition parties took place in Montreal (4/29) calling for a broad conference be held in Dublin this September encompassing all of the Syrian opposition to (Arabic. Elaph, 3/5/06).
The 27 participants in the Montreal meeting also discussed several matters including "working to unify the goals and political rhetoric of the opposition, and coordinating with the Damascus Declaration groups in the common project of bringing about democratic change in Syria." Other issues included "enshrining the concept of citizenship which holds all parts of Syrian society equal with no discrimination according to ethnicy, religion or sect," and "ongoing work to revoke emergency laws and Law 49 [which bans membership in the Muslim Brotherhood], the immediate release of all prisoners of with the help of international Human Rights organizations."
The participants also called for the formulation of a plan of action for a transition towards a pluralist, democratic system in Syria. They stressed "working on creating channels of communication between the opposition and the Syrian street that would explain the meaning of transitioning Syria towards a pluralist democratic system, and explain the details, values, and institutions of such a system."
There was also consensus on the necessity of "seeking international political support for the Syrian democratic opposition, and demanding the lifting of the cover from the Syrian regime."
Among the participants was the newly-formed Third Syrian Alliance, which was launched in Washington, DC a few days before the Montreal conference (Arabic. Elaph, 4/27/06). The Axis is a coalition of liberal North American-based parties, including: The Rally for Syria, The Reform Party of Syria, The Movement of Solidarity, The Liberal Democratic Party, and The Council on Syrian-American Relations, as well as a group of independents.
The various groups share liberal democratic values, including a commitment to free-markets, in contrast to the the Arab-nationalist, Islamic, Leftist, and Communist parties that dominate the Syrian opposition.
Two members of the Alliance, Abdel Latif Menayyar and Marwan al-Masri coordinated the consultative meeting in Montreal. Farid al-Ghadry, the head of the US-based Reform Party of Syria (RPS), did not attend in person.
It seems that the participation of the RPS caused some in Canada, namely members of the Syrian Liberal Democratic Gathering in Canada and the Syrian National Committee, to abstain from participation in the meeting (Arabic. Ahrar Syria, 4/29/06). They also expressed reservation about meeting with the newly-formed Third Alliance. The two aforementioned parties are signatories to the Damascus Declaration, which has kept an arms length distance Farid Ghadry and the RPS.
One member of the Syrian Democratic Gathering in Canada, Jean al-Abdallah, resigned from the party in protest over the participation of some of the other members in the Montreal meeting (Arabic. Ahrar Syria, 4/24/06), and few days later, other members of the Gathering followed suit (Arabic. "Free Syria," 5/7/06). His letter of resignation included a message (in English) from Ghadry explaining the goals of the meeting.
The participation of Ghadry's RPS in the Montreal Conference apparently spurred rumors about who was behind the organization and the financing of the meeting. This led the two coordinators, Menayyar and al-Masri, to issue a statement asserting that the participants covered the expenses from their own pockets, and denying that the RPS, or anyone else, sought in any way to influence the meeting financially or otherwise (Arabic. "Free Syria," 4/29/06).