Syrian opposition groups meet in Riyadh for unity talks

Syria's divided opposition have gathered in Riyadh over seeking to join forces for potential talks with Syrian regime

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Syrian people hold the Syrian opposition flag as they shout slogans against Bashar Assad.

Updated Dec 10, 2015

Syrian opposition groups have met in Riyadh, the capital centre of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to talk over union of forces against possible future talks with Syrian regime.

Saudi Arabia has been in touch with several Syrian opposition groups with the intention of inviting them to the talks. However, Riyadh has not invited all opposition groups for the meeting such as DAESH, which the United States and its allies are waging air strikes against in both Iraq and Syria, Al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra front and PYD as well.

It is believed that the meeting will be a very effective attempt since the civil war broke out.

The meeting is going on behind the closed-door. Journalists had already left the site on Tuesday when delegates arrived.

The Saudi Press Agency announced, "The meeting saw a broad participation of Syrian opposition groups inside and outside Syria."

In the beginning of the meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir welcomed the representatives and stated his hope for a successful outcome.

Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of the opposition groups, has also joined the meeting. The group has been supported by the United States with foreign military aid such as anti-tank missiles which have been supplied since the Russian military intervention in Syria on Sept. 30.

"It is the first time there is a meeting in Saudi - a meeting of soldiers and politicians - and it has a greater chance of success because Saudi is hosting it," said the head of one of the FSA groups.

"Saudi is a pivotal state in the region and for it to take this step - to host a conference of the Syrian opposition factions - certainly something real will result from it."

Noah Bonsey, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said, "Trying to get those two poles to agree to the same platform and to negotiate as one unit is going to prove very difficult if not impossible, it's not entirely clear to me whether it is even advisable."

Speaking to TRT World, Hadi al Bahra, former president of Syrian National Coalition (SNC), said that Assad could not be part of a solution in Syria because he was the main cause of the problem. Al Bahra underlined that it is needed for opposition groups to unite to represent themselves with the purpose of finding a political solution.

He also stated that the DAESH terror organisation could not be defeated without finding a political solution in Syria.

PYD and Iran criticise Riyadh meeting

PYD, which is affiliated with the PKK terror organisation that is controlling a large part of northern Syria, has not been invited to the meeting like DAESH and Al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra front. Some members of the PYD in Syria criticised the Saudi attempt and said the talks would be "doomed to fail."

Iran also announced that they will be against the Riyadh talks with Syrian opposition groups and claimed the meeting would negatively affect the Vienna peace talks and would not achieve its aim.

“The meeting in Riyadh ... will cause the failure of Vienna peace talks on Syria and it is not part of Vienna agreement,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told Fars.

The Vienna process has plans for a formal meeting between the Syrian government and the opposition until January 1.

Ali Akbar Velayati, the top foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared on Sunday that Assad's fate was a “red line” for Iran and the future of Assad could only be decided by the Syrian people.

During the nearly five-year conflict, the disunity amongst Syrian opposition factions has been one of the main reasons behind the failure to reach a long-sought political solution in the war-torn nation.

Saudi Arabia is a staunch critic of the Assad regime and a supporter of opposition groups seeking to topple it.

Tehran and Moscow are both essential in their support to Assad's regime, while Turkey, the United States, Saudi Arabia and their Western and Gulf allies are against the Assad regime.

The four-year-long war in Syria has so far claimed the lives of at least 350,000 people, while displacing half of the country's pre-war population of 22 million internally and in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. At least 350,000 refugees have also sought asylum in European countries.

According to Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) sources, between March 2011 and October 31, 2015, more than 188,000 civilians were killed including nearly 40.000 women and children, large numbers of whom lost their lives during air strikes and barrel bombings in civilian areas by the Syrian regime.


TRTWorld and agencies