Riyadh to host Syr­ian op­po­si­tion con­fer­ence this month


RIYADH: The Saudi cap­i­tal will host a con­fer­ence of Syr­ian op­po­si­tion lead­ers from Nov. 22 to 24, in an at­tempt to unify their ranks ahead of re­sum­ing di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions in Geneva un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the UN, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) re­ported Tues­day.

The Syr­ian op­po­si­tion re­port­edly re­quested that this cru­cial meet­ing be held in Riyadh, hav­ing held a sim­i­lar meet­ing there in Au­gust.

“Sau­dia Ara­bia is con­cerned about the ground sit­u­a­tion, peace and sta­bil­ity in Syria. It is host­ing more than 1 mil­lion Syr­i­ans, since 2011, and as it is sup­port­ing the mod­er­ate Syr­ian op­po­si­tion groups, the meet­ing that will be held in Riyadh will help th­ese groups to unite and come out, hope­fully, with a good agenda for the next cru­cial meet­ing un­der UN su­per­vi­sion that should de­cide the fu­ture of their coun­try,” said Mo­hamed Alkhu­naizi, a se­nior mem­ber of the King­dom’s Shoura Coun­cil, on Tues­day.

“I hope they will ful­fill their pur­pose, thus mak­ing way for peace and sta­bil­ity in Syria,” he told Arab News.

The Saudi-backed High Ne­go­ti­a­tion Com­mit­tee (HNC), which has rep­re­sented the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion at the Geneva talks pre­vi­ously, met rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Egypt and Rus­sia to dis­cuss key is­sues for a so­lu­tion to the Syr­ian con­flict un­der UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 2254, which laid out a road map for the peace process in Syria, while set­ting a timetable for talks be­tween gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion mem­bers.

It fur­ther sought an in­clu­sive and Syr­ian-led po­lit­i­cal process that meets the as­pi­ra­tions of the Syr­ian peo­ple as the only sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to the on­go­ing cri­sis.

Saudi Ara­bia sup­ports an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment on the fu­ture of Syria while main­tain­ing that Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad should step down and play no role in any fu­ture gov­ern­ment. As­sad’s regime has the sup­port of both Rus­sia and Iran.

In early Septem­ber, UN Spe­cial En­voy for Syria Staffan de Mis­tura told the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil: “The time has come for the fo­cus to re­turn to Geneva, and the in­tra-Syr­ian talks un­der the aus­pices of the United Na­tions.” He urged the gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion prag­mat­i­cally, to rec­og­nize their re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Syr­ian peo­ple, and to par­tic­i­pate in the talks with­out pre­con­di­tions.

The UN en­voy said the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment should show a gen­uine in­ter­est in ne­go­ti­a­tions for a cred­i­ble, in­clu­sive form of lo­cal and cen­tral gov­er­nance, a sched­ule and process for a new con­sti­tu­tion, and UN-su­per­vised elec­tions.

For its part, he con­tin­ued, the op­po­si­tion needed to dis­play unity and a will­ing­ness to speak with one voice. He urged op­po­si­tion groups to seize the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented by the Riyadh con­fer­ence.

In­tra-Syr­ian talks are fo­cused on four main ar­eas: A cred­i­ble non-sec­tar­ian tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment, a fu­ture con­sti­tu­tion, early and free par­lia­men­tary elec­tions and a united war against ter­ror­ism within Syria.

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