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Riyadh to host Syrian opposition conference this month

A Syrian man carries a child following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held town of Atareb in Syria's northern Aleppo province. Riyadh is to host a conference of Syrian opposition leaders on Nov.22 to 24. (AFP)
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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