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Saudi Arabia To Host Syrian Opposition Talks

November 20, 2015

Saudi Arabia says it will host a conference in mid-December aimed at uniting the Syrian opposition in the run-up to planned peace talks to end the nearly five-year civil war.

The Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah al-Moualimi, said on November 19 that the kingdom will try to bring different opposition factions 'together for a united voice' ahead of a January 1 deadline for the start of talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is keen to gather the entire Syrian opposition and help them to [present] one voice and one unified position," Mouallimi told Al-Arabiya television.

Top diplomats and officials from 20 countries and world bodies -- including the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Iran, and Saudi Arabia -- agreed in Vienna last week on a timeline for a political transition in Syria to end the country's civil war.

The parties to the Vienna talks agreed that negotiations between the Syrian sides should establish a 'credible, inclusive and nonsectarian' transitional government that would set a schedule for drafting a new constitution and holding a free and fair UN-supervised election within 18 months.

But key details, such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's role in the transition, remained unresolved after the Vienna talks.

The diplomats also failed to agree on which groups other than the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda affiliates would not be eligible for the truce.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy for Syria, told reporters after briefing the General Assembly behind closed doors on November 19 that the chances for a nationwide cease-fire in Syria have improved because the countries participating in the Vienna talks 'have an interest in seeing a cease-fire taking place.'

Moualimi said De Mistura told the General Assembly that Jordan will hold a meeting in mid-December focusing on determining which groups are part of the Syrian opposition and which will be considered terrorists, the Associated Press reported.

With reporting by AP, The Guardian, Reuters, and Al-Arabiya

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/saudi-arabia-hosting-syria-opposition-talks/27376670.html

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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