Posted December 11, 2015 12:36:50

A joint team of Syria’s political and armed opposition will meet the government subsequent month for talks in search of a political answer to nearly five years of conflict, the chairman of a Saudi-hosted opposition conference says.

A lot more than one hundred members of Syria’s opposition parties and rebel fighting groups agreed at the finish of two days of talks in Riyadh to perform collectively to prepare for peace talks with president Bashar al-Assad’s government.

But the final hours of the meeting, which excluded Islamic State and Al Nusra Front fighters as nicely as the primary Kurdish force controlling big components of northern Syria, had been overshadowed by protest from the strong insurgent group Ahrar al-Sham.

In a statement, it said it had withdrawn from the Riyadh meeting, objecting to what it said was a prominent function provided to the mostly Damascus-based political opposition group, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Alter, which it said was closer to Mr Assad than to the opposition.

It also mentioned rebel fighters had been below-represented at the talks and their voices largely ignored.

Nevertheless a copy of the final statement had reportedly been signed by the Ahrar al-Sham delegate.

Nevertheless, its withdrawal — even so brief — highlighted enduring rifts among Mr Assad’s enemies which have bedevilled Western and Gulf Arab efforts to rally enough political and military pressure on the president to force him to step down.

Abdulaziz al-Sager, a Saudi academic who chaired the Riyadh talks, stated the opposition would meet government officials in the 1st 10 days of January, the very first such talks in two years aimed at ending a bloody civil war which has drawn in forces from the United States, Russia, Europe and the Arab world.

“There will be a meeting decided by [United Nations envoy Staffan] de Mistura in January,” he mentioned.

“A meeting between the opposition and the Syrian regime to go to a transitional period. This will take place in the 1st ten days of January.”

A statement at the finish of the two-day conference said Mr Assad must leave power at the start off of a transitional period, and named for an all-inclusive, democratic civic state.

It also committed to preserving state institutions.

The opposition was willing to enter talks with Syrian government representatives and to accept a UN-supervised ceasefire, the statement stated.

‘Difficult operate ahead’: Kerry

The meeting came amid escalating conflict in Syria, pitting the army and allied militias like Lebanese Hezbollah fighters backed by Iran and Russia against competing rebel and jihadi fighters, who incorporate Arabs and Kurds.

The Riyadh meeting called on the United Nations to stress the Syrian government to make a series of confidence-developing moves just before peace talks commence, including suspending death sentences against opponents, releasing prisoners and lifting sieges.

Vienna Syria talks Photo: Russia, the United States, European and Middle Eastern nations agreed on a two-year timeline major to Syrian national elections during talks in Vienna (AFP: Brendan Smialowski, file photo)

Monzer Akbik, a member of the National Coalition opposition group, stated the conference agreed to set up a 32-member secretariat to oversee and supervise peace talks.

The statement mentioned that physique would select the negotiating group.

Participants also committed to a political program which “represents all sectors of the Syrian folks”, and would not discriminate on religious or sectarian grounds – in a gesture towards minority Alawite, Christian and Kurdish populations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the declaration.

“Although this crucial step forward brings us closer to starting negotiations amongst the Syrian parties, we recognise the difficult work ahead,” he said.

International efforts to resolve the conflict have been lent added urgency by a wave of deadly attacks across the world claimed by the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State and by a huge flow of refugees into Europe.

Major powers agreed in Vienna last month to revive diplomatic efforts to finish the war, calling for peace talks to start by January and elections within two years.

No spot for Assad in transition

The demands that Mr Assad and his lieutenants need to play no component in a political transition marked a tougher stance than that of many Western countries which back his opponents.

The United States, France and Britain all referred to as for Mr Assad to step down soon after protests broke out against his rule in March 2011.

Even though they all say Mr Assad eventually need to go, they have been less particular about the timing of any departures, indicating that they could accept his staying on in an interim period.

Mr Assad’s fate was one of numerous concerns left unresolved at the Vienna meeting final month which was attended by Russia, the United States, European and Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, which back opposing sides in Syria.

Saudi Arabia is a major backer of the rebels along with Turkey and Western nations. Iran and Russia support Mr Assad.

Iran has openly criticised the choice by Saudi Arabia to hold the talks, saying they have been designed to harm the Vienna procedure.

On Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian mentioned some groups linked to the Islamic State militant group have been involved in the Riyadh meeting.

Russia launched air strikes in Syria ten weeks ago, assisting the Syrian army — backed by Iranian troops, Hezbollah fighters and allied militia — to contain rebel advances.

Russia says it is bombing Islamic State militants, who manage large locations of eastern Syria and western Iraq, but Western and Arab states which have been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State for more than a year say the Russian jets have mostly hit other rebel forces in the west of Syria.

Moscow’s intervention has not swung the war decisively Assad’s way and a number of Western-backed rebel groups, some of whom were represented in Riyadh, have been emboldened by the improved flow of foreign-supplied anti-tank missiles which have helped stem parts of the army’s counter-offensive.

Reuters

Topics: unrest-conflict-and-war, syrian-arab-republic, saudi-arabia

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