Syria opposition names Saudi-backed militant top negotiator
Iran Press TV
Wed Jan 20, 2016 6:16PM
Syria's so-called largest opposition coalition has appointed a Saudi-backed militant chief as its main negotiator for upcoming peace talks that are hoped to bring an end to the deadly conflict in Syria.
Mohammed Alloush, a leader of a Saudi-backed armed group which calls itself Jaish al-Islam, was named as the chief negotiator of the Western-sponsored coalition of political and armed groups, its general coordinator, Riad Hijab, said at a news conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Last month, Saudi Arabia invited about 100 foreign-backed opposition figures to attend a meeting in Riyadh in an effort to reach a common ground ahead of the peace negotiations which are due to kick off on January 25 in Geneva. A 33-member opposition 'supreme committee' was formed during the meeting.
Hijab, meanwhile, said the committee's delegation must be the only representative of the opposition at the talks, adding, 'We will not go to negotiations if a third party or person is added."
This is while Russia wants the inclusion of some other opposition groups.
On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the Riyadh-based committee was 'the concerned body, and nobody else can impose on them who should represent them' in the talks.
However, the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change opposition group denounced Alloush's appointment and also naming of Asaad al-Zoabi, a general who defected from the Syrian army. He is set to serve as head of the delegation.
Calling for a change in the composition of the delegation, the group said it is 'not acceptable for the head of the delegation and the chief negotiator to be affiliated with the armed opposition."
Saudi Arabia is a main supporter of militant groups in Syria, fighting to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
On December 18, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution supporting an international roadmap for a peace process in Syria. The resolution called for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and the formation of a "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian" government within six months and UN-supervised "free and fair elections" within 18 months.
The Syrian government has announced its readiness to participate in the negotiations but stressed that Damascus should be provided with a list of the terrorist groups who are barred from the meeting and also the names of the Syrian opposition figures that are due to join the talks.
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