Syr­ian op­po­si­tion meets to pick del­e­gates

The Barrie Examiner - - NATIONAL NEWS - BASSEM MROUE and NATALIYA VASILYEVA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

BEIRUT — Syr­ian op­po­si­tion fig­ures held meet­ings in the Saudi Ara­bian cap­i­tal on Fri­day to name a uni­fied del­e­ga­tion that will at­tend peace talks with the govern­ment as a Rus­sian of­fi­cial said the is­sue of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad run­ning for of­fice in the fu­ture is still un­der dis­cus­sion.

The meet­ings in Riyadh came a day after Syr­ian op­po­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives called for di­rect and un­con­di­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Syr­ian govern­ment over the more than six-year civil war that would lead to the launch of a tran­si­tion pe­riod.

The op­po­si­tion didn’t con­di­tion its par­tic­i­pa­tion in up­com­ing UN-based ne­go­ti­a­tions on the de­par­ture of Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad from of­fice, sig­nalling a de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity.

The is­sue has al­ways been the stick­ing point in pre­vi­ous rounds of talks, deep­en­ing di­vi­sion among an al­ready frag­mented op­po­si­tion.

Syr­ian op­po­si­tion of­fi­cial Ah­mad Ra­madan said the op­po­si­tion will likely name an 11-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion later Fri­day that will lead talks with the govern­ment in Geneva next week.

The del­e­ga­tion will in­clude mem­bers of the Saudi-based op­po­si­tion as well as groups based in Egypt and Rus­sia.

“We have agreed with groups based here in Riyadh as well as those in Cairo and Moscow to form a uni­fied del­e­ga­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions in Geneva in the com­ing few days,” lead­ing op­po­si­tion fig­ure Basma Kod­mani told re­porters in Riyadh late Thurs­day.

In Moscow, Rus­sian Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Mikhail Bog­danov said on Fri­day that the is­sue of As­sad run­ning for of­fice in the fu­ture is still un­der dis­cus­sion. As­sad was elected for a seven-year term in 2014.

Asked about a pos­si­bil­ity of an early pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Syria and As­sad run­ning in it, Bog­danov said in an in­ter­view with RIA Novosti: “This is un­der the dis­cus­sion now, the work is on­go­ing. There are no re­sults yet.”

Rus­sia has al­ways said that the fate of As­sad will be de­cided by the Syr­ian peo­ple while Syr­ian govern­ment of­fi­cials have said they will not give the op­po­si­tion in peace talks what they failed to achieve by war.

GETTY IMAGES FILES

A Syr­ian boy looks at a hole in the ground caused by an un­det­o­nated rocket fol­low­ing a re­ported air strike in the rebel-con­trolled town of Hamouria, in the eastern Ghouta re­gion on the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal Da­m­as­cus.

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