The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group began a three-day meeting in Istanbul on Sunday to elect a new president and discuss the offensive by Islamic militants straddling Iraq and Syria, an official with the group said.

The meeting comes amid reports that 150,000 people have been displaced from their homes in eastern Syria by jihadi fighters who captured wide areas of the eastern province of Deir el-Zour in the past weeks.

The Syrian National Coalition will pick a replacement for its current president, Ahmad al-Jarba, in a vote expected on Tuesday. The top candidate for the job is senior coalition members are Hadi Bahra and Muwaffaq Nairabiyeh, who belong to Jarba’s Democratic bloc. Spokeswoman Sarah Karkour said that by Sunday evening, there hadn’t been an agreement on a candidate, although members were coalescing around Bahra.

Mr. Jarba, who was elected in July 2013, has already served two six-month terms the maximum period allowed by the coalition.

A statement by the group said that in addition to a vote for a new president, the coalition will also elect three vice presidents, a secretary general and a political committee. The statement said the coalition will be “discussing the military changes in Syria and the region in general, and its impact on the course of revolution”.

Women members will also be pushing for a vote to institute a quota to ensure they make up 30 per cent of the coalition members, said Mariam Jalabi, director of the group’s New York and United Nations offices.

Over the past weeks, Islamic militants launched a wide offensive in eastern Syria and northern Iraq capturing large areas on both sides of the border.

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