Syrian opposition to meet next week in Riyadh


A conference bringing together dozens of figures from Syria's political and armed opposition will be held next week in Riyadh, opposition members told journalists on Friday. According to Samir Nashar, a member of the opposition National Coalition, "the meeting will be in Riyadh on Tuesday and Wednesday, and maybe Thursday if necessary." He said the Coalition would be represented by 20 people and that 10 other opposition figures were also invited.

Saudi Arabia is a leading backer of the opposition to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Haytham Manaa, co-founder of the Cairo Conference group which includes domestic and exiled opposition figures, said 85 people would attend the meeting, including 15 from armed factions.

"We received some twenty invitations for the meeting that will be held on 8 and 9 December," he said. But the powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) have yet to be invited because of pressure from the Istanbul-based Coalition, Nashar said.

The YPG has been the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State group in northern and northeastern Syria. An opposition source said the armed factions invited are those "not considered terrorist groups," including the powerful Jaish al-Islam and the rebel Southern Front.

On 21 November, UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura announced that Saudi Arabia would host a broad opposition conference in mid-December. The meeting is part of an effort to close the gap between opposition groups ahead of potential future negotiations with Damascus.

Syria's war has left more than 250,000 people dead since it erupted in March 2011, and multiple attempts at reaching a political solution have faltered.    (AFP)

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