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Forming unified Syrian opposition delegation not taken off agenda - expert

August 24, 2017, 1:21 UTC+3 BEIRUT

"The issue of forming a unified delegation has not been taken off the agenda, given the efforts made by Russian and Saudi diplomats in this regard," expert on inter-Arab relations Nidal Sabi told TASS

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BEIRUT, August 23. /TASS/. The fact that the meeting of three Syrian opposition’s factions in Riyadh ended without tangible results does not mean that the initiative on their joining the unified delegation for talks with the government in Geneva was a failure, expert on inter-Arab relations Nidal Sabi told TASS on Wednesday. Sabi who is considered an expert on Syria's opposition groups has been involved in the work of the regional peace initiative to establish dialogue between the government and the opposition since 2013.

"The issue of forming a unified delegation has not been taken off the agenda, given the efforts made by Russian and Saudi diplomats in this regard," he noted.

According to the expert, there are more coincidences in the stances of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC, the Riyadh group), the Moscow and Cairo platforms of the Syrian opposition than differences. Sabi noted that preliminary agreements had been reached at a meeting in Riyadh, and the dialogue will continue. A group of eight negotiators from the HNC is led by George Sabra.

Restructuring opposition’s foreign wing

"The Saudi leadership, specifically, young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is determined to unblock the Syrian and other regional crises as soon as possible, which is in line with the ambitious plans for the kingdom’s economic development," Sabi said. According to the expert, restructuring is underway in the foreign wing of the Syrian opposition. "For a long time, Riyadh and Doha have been the main sponsors of anti-government armed groups. However, at the current stage, the Saudi side seeks to clear HNC ranks from Qatar’s supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalist group replacing them with more pragmatic figures," he noted.

Pragmatists should come to forefront

According to the expert, people with the more flexible thinking willing to compromise and seeking the formation of a unified delegation at an early date should come to the fore in other opposition factions as well. That will make it possible to launch direct talks with the Syrian government on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, he noted.

This resolution provides for the establishment of a transitional governing body, drafting a new Constitution, which will ensure free and fair UN-supervised elections within 18 months.

Leader of the "Cairo" platform Firas al-Khalidi described the results of the two-day meeting in Riyadh as positive. According to the Al-Hayat pan-Arab newspaper, he is confident that it is possible to overcome the persisting disagreements between various factions regarding the future role of President Bashar al-Assad and the constitutional reform.

The delay in forming a unified opposition delegation has made the situation difficult for UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. A new round of the intra-Syrian contacts in Geneva scheduled for September 8 is likely to be put off until October.

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