Syrian opposition meeting in Riyadh ends in stalemate

Members of the Syrian high negotiations committee and the Cairo and Moscow groups are seen during a meeting in Riyadh, on August 21, 2017, in an effort to arrive at an agreement on the political programme that forms the basis of the negotiations with the Syrian government. ( AFP / Fayez Nureldine)
Updated 22 August 2017
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Syrian opposition meeting in Riyadh ends in stalemate

RIYADH: A meeting between Syrian opposition groups in Riyadh has ended in stalemate, a member said Tuesday, with the fate of President Bashar Assad still an obstacle in forming a unified front for peace talks.
The Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) began discussions on Monday with delegations from two other moderate camps, the so-called Cairo and Moscow groupings, in a bid to reach consensus on a joint negotiating strategy.
After hosting seven rounds of largely unsuccessful talks, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura had sought to unify the opposition for what he hopes will be a substantive round of negotiations in October.
“The representatives of the Moscow grouping refused to recognize any text that referred to the Syrian people’s demand for the departure of Bashar Assad,” said Ahmed Ramadan of the National Coalition, a leading component of the HNC.
“There was an important level of understanding between HNC and the Cairo grouping, but the stalemate with Moscow group delegates hampered efforts to bring representatives... into a single negotiating delegation.”
There was no immediate comment from the so-called Moscow group.
Assad’s fate has long been a key sticking point, with the HNC insisting on his ouster but the other two camps adopting a softer stance.
De Mistura said last week that he hopes for “real” peace talks between the government and a still-to-be-formed unified Syrian opposition in October.
Rebels have suffered heavy territorial losses since peace talks to end the war began, including the regime’s recapture of second city Aleppo, a former opposition stronghold.
With the rebel fighting position weakened, experts say the regime faces no pressure to make concessions at the negotiating table, and especially not over the question of Assad’s future.


Lebanon to form body to probe civil war disappearances

Updated 12 November 2018
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Lebanon to form body to probe civil war disappearances

  • The long-awaited law would empower an independent national commission to gather information about the missing
  • Families and rights groups have been campaigning for the law since 2012, when it first went to parliament

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament on Monday approved the formation of an independent commission to help determine the fate of thousands of people who went missing during the country’s civil war, which ended nearly three decades ago.
The long-awaited law would empower an independent national commission to gather information about the missing, collect DNA samples and exhume mass graves from the 1975-1990 conflict.
Families and rights groups have been campaigning for the law since 2012, when it first went to parliament.
“This is the first step toward giving closure to families of the missing hopefully,” said Rona Halabi, spokeswoman for the International Committee for the Red Cross. “This represents a milestone for the families who have waited for years to have answers.”
The Hague-based International Commission on Missing Persons says more than 17,000 people are estimated to have gone missing during the Lebanese civil war.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said lawmakers approved the law after voting on each of its 38 articles.
LBC TV said lawmakers initially protested, saying calls for accountability may affect current officials. The broadcaster said they were reassured the 1991 amnesty for abuses committed by militias during the war remains in place.
Many of Lebanon’s political parties are led by former warlords implicated in some of the civil war’s worst fighting.
“For the first time after the war, Lebanon enters a genuine reconciliation phase, to heal the wounds and give families the right to know,” Gebran Bassil, the country’s foreign minister tweeted.
The ICRC began compiling DNA samples from relatives of the disappeared in 2016 and has interviewed more than 2,000 families to help a future national commission.
DNA samples have been stored with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and the ICRC. The law would allow Lebanese security forces to take part in the sample collection.