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Syria Hmeimim group calls on Riyadh group supporters to lay down arms, hold dialogue

March 17, 10:31 UTC+3 GENEVA
"I cannot talk with someone who puts a pistol to my head," says leader of the Hmeimim group Ilian Masaad
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© AP Photo/Seivan Selim, File

GENEVA, March 17. /TASS/. Discussions with opposition members from the Riyadh group (the High Negotiations Committee - HNC) are possible if their supporters agree to lay down arms, Ilian Masaad who heads the delegation of the internal Syrian opposition in Geneva that came to be known as the Hmeimim group has told TASS.

"If they say that we stop here and that it is necessary to lay down arms," he said when asked whether the Hmeimim group was ready for contacts with the HNC. "I cannot talk with someone who puts a pistol to my head."

When asked whether the HNC controlled armed groups on the ground, he said, "No, it doesn't." "Terrorist and other groups opposed to the state are controlled by people funded by Qataris, Turks and Saudis," he noted. "There are people in Riyadh’s delegation who work for this project. That’s their job."

However, "if one day Turkey says, ‘Enough!’, the next day the Turkish border will be closed and the delivery of weapons and ammunition still be stopped," the politician said. "If the Qataris and Saudis say that there are no more funds, the number of HNC supporters will decrease within two or three months."

According to Masaad, "members of Riyadh’s delegation present an unrealistic picture" in Geneva. However, whether they have real support among Syrians will be determined during the elections. "I would like them to stay for some time and say that they will take part in the elections," he said.

Masaad noted that HNC representatives had never tried to get in touch with the internal moderate opposition. "They have never tried to talk with us," he said. "They were created exclusively for this crisis. When the United States and Russia said that this was the end, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar show through the Riyadh group that they do not want this."

On the other hand, Masaad did not rule out contacts with the Moscow-Cairo group. "I met with Jamil [one of the leaders of the Moscow-Cairo group - TASS] and told him, "You, Kassis [Randa Kassis, a representative of the Syrian opposition group that joined forces after a conference in Astana], Kurds, we and even the government’s National Progressive Front - all this is Syria. And all others are terrorists," he said.

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