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
0

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.


Turkey condemns European parliament committee call to suspend accession

Updated 8 min 39 sec ago
0

Turkey condemns European parliament committee call to suspend accession

  • The Foreign Affairs Committee cited disregard for human rights and civil liberties, influence on the judiciary, and disputes over territory with Cyprus and other neighbors
  • Turkey says EU membership remains one of its top strategic goals even though the accession talks

ISTANBUL: Turkey criticized on Thursday as “unacceptable” a vote by the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee calling for the suspension of EU accession negotiations with it.
The Foreign Affairs Committee called on the European Commission and member states on Wednesday to formally suspend EU accession negotiations with Turkey, citing disregard for human rights and civil liberties, influence on the judiciary, and disputes over territory with Cyprus and other neighbors.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the non-binding, advisory draft report is calling for a total suspension of our accession talks to the EU,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
“We expect the necessary corrections to be made and the final report to be more realistic, impartial and encouraging. Only such a report will be taken into consideration by our country.”
Turkey says EU membership remains one of its top strategic goals even though the accession talks, formally launched in 2004, have been stalled for years. Some EU leaders and officials have called for them to be ended.
“My expectation is that in two weeks a large majority of the EP will vote for the suspension of accession talks w/ Turkey, as EP Foreign Affairs (committee) did today,” Kati Piri, EU Rapporteur on Turkey, said in a tweet on Wednesday, referring to the European Parliament.
In October, President Tayyip Erdogan said he would consider putting Turkey’s long-stalled bid to join the European Union to a referendum, signalling exasperation with a process he says has been waylaid by prejudice against Muslims.
“Human rights violations and arrests of journalists occur on an almost daily basis while democracy and the rule of law in the country are undermined further,” European Parliament member Marietje Schaake said in a statement.
“This, in combination with the constitutional changes has made Turkey’s accession to the European Union impossible at this stage. The message of the Parliament today is crystal clear. We attach consequences to Erdogan’s authoritarian grip on power.”