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Nasr Hariri to head unified Syrian opposition at Geneva

In this March 3, 2017 photo, Nasr al-Hariri, the leader of Syria's main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, gives a press conference after a round of negotiation with UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP)
RIYADH: Syria’s main opposition group selected Nasr Hariri to head the negotiating team at a new round of UN-backed peace talks with the Damascus regime in Geneva next week, a spokesman said on Friday.
Hamid Al-Mahameed, Jamaal Sulaiman, Hanadi Abu Yaarob and Ala’a Arafat will be Hariri’s deputies. The negotiation body comprises 36 members, representing all sections of the opposition.
Feras Al-Khalidi, a leading opposition figure, stuck by the demand that President Bashar Assad play no role in an interim period. “The participants stressed that the transition cannot happen without the departure of Assad and his clique at the start of the interim period,” he said.
He added: “I make it clear that … we shall go to Geneva without any preconditions. The political transition needs a safe environment and that cannot be possible with Assad’s presence.”
The opposition groups met to seek a unified position ahead of talks after two years of Russian military intervention that has helped Assad’s regime recapture all of Syria’s main cities.
“There was consensus between the various groups to choose him (Hariri) as head of the Higher Negotiations Committee to lead the opposition delegation in the coming Geneva talks,” said Ahmad Ramadan, spokesman for the Istanbul-based Syrian National Coalition.
UN peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura, preparing for the next round of Geneva talks, met on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Moscow was working with Riyadh to unify the Syrian opposition.
Basma Kodmani, a Syrian academic and former spokesperson of the Syrian National Council (SNC), said: “We have agreed with the two other opposition branches to send a united delegation to participate in the direct negotiations in Geneva.”
The UN-brokered talks will take place in Geneva on Nov. 28.

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