RIYADH Opponents of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad agreed on Thursday to bring with each other political and armed factions in a single physique in preparation for attainable peace talks with his government, an opposition member said.
The opposition meeting in Riyadh comes amid escalating conflict in Syria and accelerated diplomacy to uncover a political resolution to a war which has drawn in regional military powers and driven millions of refugees to seek safety abroad.
Delegates from Islamist insurgent groups, exiled political opposition figures and Damascus-based activists are aiming to bridge variations which have plagued preceding attempts to unite Assad’s opponents about a frequent method.
The conference agreed on Wednesday that Assad and his lieutenants must play no component in a transition to democracy.
Monzer Akbik, a member of the National Coalition opposition group, said the Riyadh conference had agreed to set up a 25-strong leadership group, which includes six coalition members, six from rebel factions, five from a Damascus-based group and eight independent figures.
“These are representatives of all the opposition factions, political and military, and they are going to be the choice makers in terms of the political settlement,” said Akbik.
He was speaking from the United Arab Emirates after becoming briefed on Thursday morning’s talks. A separate negotiating team of 15 members would also be appointed, he told Reuters.
There was no immediate indication of agreement on the figures who would be chosen to fill these positions, and a single delegate highlighted the potential difficulties that remained. “Only God knows” if delegates could agree on names, he said.
Akbik mentioned that bringing the armed rebels collectively with the political opposition in a single group was a essential step for negotiations with the government.
“During the negotiation process you may possibly require to attain a ceasefire agreement, and this requires that the armed factions be component of the negotiating process,” he mentioned.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Paris, stated the Riyadh talks appeared to be “very constructive” and making progress. “I think everybody is moving in the direction that they want to quickly get to a political process,” he mentioned.
“So we created progress but we have some difficult concerns to get over,” he stated. A attainable Dec. 18 meeting to advance the Syrian peace talks in New York is “not locked in yet” and sides are awaiting the outcome of the Saudi conference, he added.
At the Riyadh talks a declaration of principles was nevertheless getting drafted, a rebel commander mentioned.
Yet another commander added that there was agreement on keeping Syria united, on the departure of foreign forces and militias and that there must be no sectarian quotas in Syria’s government, which a political opposition leader also confirmed.
The role that Islam must play in a future Syria, and what status the country’s religious and ethnic minorities will have, has been a point of contention among the country’s rebel groups which include hardline Islamists.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stated he hoped the opposition would come together in Riyadh to a enough degree to “move the globe to impose the required pressure to reach a peaceful settlement” in Syria.
“Bashar al-Assad has two options. Either he leaves through negotiations and this is the quickest, easiest and ideal for everybody, or he will leave by way of fighting due to the fact the Syrian men and women reject that this man stays in energy,” he mentioned.
International efforts to resolve the conflict which has killed 250,000 people and displaced 12 million have been lent added urgency by a wave of deadly attacks across the planet claimed by the Iraq- and Syria-primarily based Islamic State and by an escalating refugee flow which has triggered a crisis in Europe.
Major powers agreed in Vienna final month to revive diplomatic efforts to finish the war, calling for peace talks to begin by January and elections inside two years.
NO Portion FOR ASSAD
The conference agreed on Wednesday, the 1st day of the meeting, that Assad and his lieutenants must play no part in the transition to democracy, a number of delegates stated.
That marked a tougher stance than several Western countries which back Assad’s opponents. The United States, France and Britain all known as for Assad to step down shortly after protests broke out against his rule in March 2011.
Despite the fact that they all say Assad ultimately should go, they have been significantly less distinct about the timing of any departures, indicating that they could accept he keep in an interim period.
Assad’s fate was one of many questions left unresolved at the Vienna meeting final month which was attended by Russia, the United States, European and Middle Eastern countries which includes Saudi Arabia and Iran, which back opposing sides in Syria.
Saudi Arabia is a primary backer of the rebels along with Turkey and Western countries. Iran and Russia help Assad. Iran has openly criticized the selection by Saudi Arabia to hold the talks, saying they had been made to harm the Vienna procedure.
Russia launched air strikes in Syria 10 weeks ago, helping the Syrian army – backed by Iranian troops, Hezbollah fighters and allied militia – to contain rebel advances.
Russia says it is bombing Islamic State militants, who control massive locations of eastern Syria and western Iraq, but Western and Arab states which have been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State for a lot more than a year say the Russia jets have mostly hit other rebel forces in the west of Syria.
Moscow’s intervention has not swung the war decisively Assad’s way and a number of Western-backed rebel groups, some of whom were represented in Riyadh, have been emboldened by the elevated flow of foreign-supplied anti-tank missiles which have helped stem parts of the army’s counter-offensive.
(Added reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Sami Aboudi and Dominic Evans in Dubai, editing by Peter Millership)