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)
Updated 14 November 2017
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Riyadh to host Syrian opposition conference this month

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.


Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

Updated 3 min 21 sec ago
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Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

  • The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians
  • Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third

AMMAN: Israel was accused on Thursday of humiliating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by placing Ramallah on virtual lockdown amid a 24-hour outbreak of violence in which five people died.

The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians suspected of earlier attacks. Salah Barghouti, 29, was accused of shooting seven Israelis on Sunday at a bus station near the Ofra settlement. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, shot two Israelis dead in the Barkan industrial zone settlement in October.

Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third when he opened fire at the Ofra bus station.

Israeli forces chased the gunman into Ramallah, where they set up road blocks, launched raids and placed the town under virtual siege. In the hunt for the gunman, a Palestinian was shot dead in Al-Bireh neighborhood of Ramallah.

Abbas Zaki, a leading Fatah official, told Arab News Palestinian frustration was being fueled by Israel. “They barged into Ramallah in violation of existing agreements and came very close to the home of President Abbas.

“What more do people need to see to let them give up on a process when Israelis are willing to humiliate in such a way the father of Palestinian peace?”

Abbas himself condemned the anti-Israeli attacks but blamed Israeli raids as a potential cause.

“The climate created by the policy of repeated intrusions into the cities, the provocations against the sovereignty of the president and the lack of a horizon for peace are what led to this unacceptable violence that we condemn and reject,” he said.