KSA talks to unite Syrian opposition
Saudi Arabia will host a conference in mid-December to try to unite the Syrian opposition ahead of new peace talks, a key issue in stepped up efforts to end the nearly five-year civil war, the country’s UN ambassador has said.
Abdullah Al-Moallimi, Saudi ambassador to the UN, said his country would be trying to bring different strands of the opposition “together for a united voice.”
Last Saturday, foreign ministers from about 20 nations agreed in Vienna to an ambitious yet incomplete plan that sets a Jan. 1 deadline for the start of negotiations between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and opposition groups.
Within six months, the negotiations are to establish a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian” transitional government that would set a schedule for drafting a new constitution and holding a free and fair UN-supervised election within 18 months.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria who represented the UN at the Vienna talks, told reporters that a national cease-fire in Syria is now more likely because the countries participating in two rounds of talks in Vienna “have an interest in seeing a cease-fire taking place.”
Al-Mouallimi said de Mistura told the General Assembly that Jordan will hold a meeting in mid-December that will focus on defining which groups are part of the opposition and which groups are going to be considered terrorists.
Syrian opposition figures said efforts were under way to hold the conference, but that no date had yet been set. “There are efforts toward a meeting in Riyadh between most parts of the opposition. We will participate and we will support the conference,” said Badr Jammous, a member of Syria’s political opposition in exile. “No date has been set yet. There are meetings and consultations.”
Hadi Al-Bahra, former president of the Syrian National Coalition, said they had received “no official invitation” but that the participation of “moderate” armed groups fighting on the ground would be sought. Representatives of three Free Syrian Army groups said they had no knowledge of the meeting.