Syrian opposition agrees on united delegation for Geneva talks

Syrian opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks
2 min read
24 November, 2017
Syrian opposition groups in Riyadh agree to send a 50-strong unified delegation to meet with President Bashar al-Assad in Geneva next week.

Syria's opposition groups announced early on Friday that they had reached an agreement to send a united delegation to next week's UN-led peace negotiations in Geneva.

The fragmented opposition made the announcement on the second day of Saudi-sponsored talks in Riyadh, where around 140 opposition figures are gathered to unify their ranks before direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime on November 28.

"We have agreed with the two other (opposition) branches to send a united delegation to participate in the direct negotiations in Geneva," Bassma Kodmani, a member of the Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee, told reporters.

Kodmani added that further meetings would be held on Friday to finalise the names and number of representatives each group would have in the 50-strong unified delegation.

A Cairo-based Syrian opposition group was reported to have agreed earlier Thursday to join ranks with other opposition clusters including the HNC - the largest bloc in the opposition  - and the Istanbul-based National Coalition.

Kodmani's announcement on Friday implies that a Moscow-based Syrian opposition group has also agreed to join the delegation.

Despite producing Friday's agreement, the Riyadh talks have been marred by the absence of several key opposition figures who say that the opposition groups have rowd back too far on their demands.

Among those who joined the boycott is former HNC leader Riad Hijab, who stepped down from his leadership post on Monday over "attempts to lower the ceiling of the revolution and prolong the regime".

The fate of President Assad has proven a major stumbling block in multiple rounds of negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition.

The HNC and its closest allies have consistently demanded Assad step down from power as a prerequisite for a transitional phase to end Syria's conflict.

Kodami said the HNC and its closest allies maintained their longstanding demand that Assad step down from power as a prerequisite for a transitional phase to end the Syrian war, prompting "reservations" from the Moscow group.