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Riyadh Syrian Opposition Meeting Addresses Assad Hurdle, Iranian Meddling

Riyadh Syrian Opposition Meeting Addresses Assad Hurdle, Iranian Meddling

Wednesday, 22 November, 2017 - 09:15
Destruction in Syria. (Reuters)

Representatives of the Syrian opposition and independent figures continued on Tuesday their consultations ahead of the Riyadh-hosted Syrian opposition meeting that got underway on Wednesday.

The consultations over the past two days focused on “rejecting regional and international meddling, especially Iran’s role in destabilizing the security and stability of the region.” They also addressed the future of regime leader Bashar Assad and his role in the transition process.

The conference will conclude on Friday with the release of a political vision of Syria and the formation of an opposition delegation that will participate in the Geneva negotiations that are scheduled to kick off on November 28.

Opposition sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that discussions between members of the preparatory committee tackled the political vision of “the Syrian revolution and opposition forces.”

The forces, which come from all components of Syrian society, will include representatives of the opposition, independent and revolutionary factions, as well as military revolt forces, civil society organizations and local councils.

The sources said that the participants stressed the importance of the political solution and that it be based on the 2012 Geneva statement and resolutions 2118 and 2254. This is the solution that will bring justice to the victims of oppression and war crimes, they added.

It will also establish a new nation for the Syrians that will ensure their liberties, respect their dignity and unite them against the forces of oppression, extremism and terrorism.

The sources predicted that the gatherers will voice their commitment to the unity of Syrian territory and sovereignty of their nation and therefore no part of the country should be partitioned.

They voiced their commitment to a Syria that is comprised of various minorities and cultures, whose rights are protected by the constitution. The culture and language of these minorities - Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians Syriacs and others – represent the history of Syria and its civilization.

The Kurdish cause is part of the Syrian national cause and all discriminatory policies should be abolished, they demanded.

The sources reiterated the conclusions of the 2015 expanded Syrian opposition conference that was held in Riyadh and the participants suggested that “Syria be a democratic state that is built on a decentralized administration.” They also urged that Syrian state institutions be preserved and its military and security agencies be restructured, rejecting all formed of extremism and terrorism.

This stance is similar to the political solution document of principles that was proposed by United Nations special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and the government and opposition delegations during previous Geneva negotiations rounds.

Furthermore, the sources said that the participants at the Riyadh meeting proposed the rejection of Iranian interference in the region and its attempts to create demographic change there and spread terrorism, including state terrorism and the deployment of foreign and sectarian militias.

They demanded that the legitimate Syrian state institutions, which are chosen by the Syrian people in transparent elections, have the exclusive right on the possession of arms in the country.

In a reference to Iran-backed militias, they also renewed their rejection of the presence of all foreign fighters on Syria territory.

The political solution and Assad hurdle

In what was seen as compliance with last week’s statements by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the political solution, the participants stressed that the solution to the Syria crisis is political and based on international resolutions. International guarantees should be provided to ensure that these resolutions are implemented.

The political transition should include Syrian officials and the international community, they added in reference to the Geneva statement and resolution 2254.

Trump and Putin had emphasized the importance of carrying out constitutional reform to pave the way for elections.

The Syrian sources said that the Riyadh meeting participants proposed that the goal of the political settlement should be the establishment of state that is based on national unity that would enable the people to draft their constitution without foreign interference. They would also be able to chose their leaders through free and transparent UN-supervised elections that would see the participation of Syrians inside and outside the country. The polls should be held in a manner that ensures their rights in holding officials accountable for their actions.

This will thereby achieve a radical political transition that excludes any individual who is proven to have committed war crimes against civilians.

The Americans and Russians agreed that the Geneva negotiations should be held without any preconditions.

As for Assad’s fate, the sources said that the Riyadh consultations proposed that unconditional direct negotiations mean that all issues should be present at the negotiation table. No side therefore has the right to impose preconditions and the demand to implement international resolutions is not a precondition. This includes discussions on the form of the system of rule in Syria and its regime, privileges and responsibilities. The position of the presidency, government and others will be up for discussion.

The Geneva statement addresses the establishment of a transition authority that can pave the way for a neutral environment that can ensure the launch of the political process. It is fundamental to make sure that the transition is implemented in a manner that guarantees the safety of all in stable and calm circumstances.

One of the opposition figures at the Riyadh conference said that achieving these two points cannot take place without Assad’s departure at the beginning of the transition period.

European countries and the US had proposed that resolving the Assad “obstacle” could take place during the transition period and that negotiations start without preconditions.

The gatherers at the Riyadh meeting are expected to agree on the formation of a united team that would carry out negotiations with regime representatives on condition that none of its members will be part of the transition authority or any of the institutions that will be formed from it.

Some of the proposals include forming the delegation of 15 negotiators and 15 consultants that represent political and independent figures.

The sources said that there has been a confirmation of the need for the UN, through its representative, to take the immediate necessary measures to activate the political process and redirect the course of the Geneva negotiations. This can take place through calling for direct negotiations without any preconditions between the revolution and opposition delegation and the regime delegation. An agenda should be put in place based on the Geneva statement and resolutions 2118 and 2254 and the sponsorship of the UN.

The Riyadh participants stressed the need to implement the articles of Security Council resolutions, including releasing prisoners, ending the siege against certain areas, granting passage to humanitarian convoys and allowing refugees and the displaced to return to their homes. “De-escalation” zones agreements should be effectively implemented and violations by the regime and its allies should cease.

The reconstruction of Syria has been linked to the completion of the political agreement and the formation of a ruling transition authority. Some $220 billion are needed to rebuild the country and the UN and international community should be accepted as supervisors of the ceasefire and peacekeeping process.

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