[Marxism] Syrian opposition find common ground at Riyadh peace talks
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Fri Dec 11 19:01:03 MST 2015
- Assad should leave power at the start of a transitional period
- called for an all-inclusive, democratic civic state
- also committed to preserving state institutions
- committed to a political system which "represents all sectors of the
Syrian people", and would not discriminate on religious or sectarian
Syrian opposition find common ground at Riyadh peace talks
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | Adopted in 2011, the the former Syrian flag used
before the Baathist period has become the emblem of the opposition to
Text by FRANCE 24
Latest update : 2015-12-10
The Islamist insurgent group Ahrar al-Sham has signed its name to a
Syrian opposition statement issued after two days of talks in Riyadh,
according to a copy of the statement seen by Reuters, despite earlier
saying it had pulled out of the meeting.
Political activists and rebel groups gathered for the conference in
the Saudi Arabian capital agreed to set up a joint body to prepare for
future peace talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government,
which world powers proposed at a meeting in Vienna last month.
Abdulaziz al-Sager, a Saudi who heads the independent Gulf Research
Centre in Geneva and chaired the meeting, told a news conference that
an opposition delegation would meet government officials in the first
10 days of January.
A statement at the end of the two-day conference said Assad should
leave power at the start of a transitional period, and called for an
all-inclusive, democratic civic state. It also committed to preserving
But the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham formerly said it had pulled out
of the talks – a move which highlighted the enduring divisions among
Assad's enemies – objecting to what it said was a prominent role given
to the internal political opposition group, the National Coordination
Body for Democratic Change (NCB). It said the NCB was considered to be
a pro-Assad organisation, not opposition.
It also said in a statement released on its Twitter account that the
Saudi conference had not given "real weight to the revolutionary
factions" either in terms of their representation at the talks or in
Several opposition sources later said Ahrar al-Sham returned to the
conference, but the group did not confirm the move.
The opposition was willing to enter talks with Syrian government
representatives and to accept a U.N.-supervised ceasefire, the
If Ahrar al-Sham had stayed outside the deal, its absence would have
made any such ceasefire much harder to implement.
Radical militant groups Islamic State group and Nusra Front, al
Qaeda's Syria wing, were excluded from the Riyadh talks and would not
be part of any cease-fire agreement.
The meeting called on the United Nations to pressure the Syrian
government to make a series of confidence-building moves before peace
talks start, including suspending death sentences against opponents,
releasing prisoners and lifting sieges.
The war pits the Syrian army and allied militias including Lebanese
Hezbollah fighters backed by Iran and Russia, against an array of
competing rebel and jihadi fighters, who include Arabs and Kurds.
Rifts among Assad's opponents have hindered four years of Western
efforts to mobilise a stronger political and military challenge to the
president throughout a conflict which has killed 250,000 people and
driven millions of refugees abroad.
The meeting came amid escalating conflict in Syria and accelerated
diplomacy to find a political solution to the war.
Delegates from Islamist insurgent groups, exiled political opposition
figures and Damascus-based activists gathered to bridge differences
which have plagued previous attempts to unite Assad's opponents around
a common strategy.
Monzer Akbik, a member of the National Coalition opposition group,
said the conference agreed to set up a 32-member secretariat to
oversee and supervise peace talks. The statement said that body would
select the negotiating team.
Participants also committed to a political system which "represents
all sectors of the Syrian people", 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, speaking in Paris, said the Riyadh
talks had made progress "but we have some tough issues to get over." A
possible Dec. 18 meeting to advance the Syrian peace talks in New York
is "not locked in yet", he added.
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 the escalating refugee flow
which has caused a crisis in Europe.
Major powers agreed in Vienna last month to revive diplomatic efforts
to end the war, calling for peace talks to start by January and
elections within two years.
No part for Assad
The demands that Assad and his lieutenants should play no part in the
transition to democracy marked a tougher stance than several Western
countries which back Assad's opponents. The United States, France and
Britain all called for Assad to step down after protests broke out
against his rule in March 2011.
Although they all say Assad ultimately must go, they have been less
specific about the timing of any departures, indicating that they
could accept he stay in an interim period.
Assad's fate was one of several questions left unresolved at the
Vienna meeting last month which was attended by Russia, the United
States, European and Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia
and Iran, which back opposing sides in Syria.
Saudi Arabia is a main backer of the rebels along with Turkey and
Western countries. Iran and Russia support Assad.
Iran has openly criticised the decision by Saudi Arabia to hold the
talks, saying they were designed to harm the Vienna process. On
Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said some
groups linked to the Islamic State militant group were involved in the
Russia launched air strikes in Syria 10 weeks ago, helping 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 control large
areas 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 Russia jets have mainly hit other rebel
forces in the west of Syria.
Moscow's intervention has not swung the war decisively Assad's way and
several Western-backed rebel groups, some of whom were represented in
Riyadh, have been emboldened by the increased flow of foreign-supplied
anti-tank missiles which have helped stem parts of the army's
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