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Armed Battalions Have Four Seats In Opposition Geneva Delegation

Regime delegates focus on fighting terrorism, while opposition concerned with transitional government
Armed Battalions Have Four Seats In Opposition Geneva Delegation


American-Russian efforts prevented the Syrian National Coalition's delegation's withdrawal from the conference's hall during the speech of the head of regime's delegation, Walid Mouallem.


Mouallem meanwhile had to stay in the hall while the head of the opposition delegation, Ahmad Jarba was giving his speech.


These efforts kept the two Syrian delegations "under one roof" and forced them to listen to each other directly for the first time since three years.


It was expected that direct negotiations in one room would be held Friday, but doubts remained over a controversy about the flag to be raised in negotiations hall, which required additional American-Russian communications.


Western diplomatic sources told al-Hayat that the telephone call between the American president Obama and his Russian counterpart Putin Tuesday aimed at solving some logistical "complications".


The two presidents agreed on gathering the two delegations in "one room for more than a week until they agree on a negotiations schedule before suspending the negotiations", sources said,  especially after problems related to the participation of armed battalions in the opposition delegation.


The sources confirmed that American and Russian foreign ministers have agreed on the basis for negotiations and "the importance of gathering the two delegations on one table and of starting the long negotiation process to form a mutual accepted transitional body, as was decided in Geneva I".


"Kerry mentioned the courage of opposition when it decided to attend the conference, and stressed the importance of more pressure to achieve progress on the demands for access for humanitarian aid, release of detainees and local ceasefire agreements", the sources added.


Kerry emphasized that the foundation for negotiations is the invitation to the international conference based on the declaration of Geneva I.


The rules of the negotiations were outlined as: "The principles and instructions of the Geneva declaration about a transitional process are obligatory politically and are on the basis that all participants in the conference should try to fully apply. Both delegations are to respect the presidency which will be addressed if any party wanted to address the other. The discussions should be related to the subject concerned. Provocative behavior or sudden withdrawals are not accepted and each party should control itself during the negotiation process. The secrecy of negotiations should be maintained".


A western official told al-Hayat that the representatives of the "hard core" factions in the Friends of Syria group met yesterday to coordinate their position.


The source added the countries supporting the opposition "have no illusions, and they know that negotiation process is complicated and hard. But they will not allow any change in the negotiations goal; that is to form a transitional governing body, as the declaration of Geneva I and the invitation decree. There is an agreement on giving the diplomatic efforts six months to form this governing body, and, if it wasn’t formed, the Friends of Syria group will provide the opposition with major support".


While the government delegation is expected to focus on "fighting terrorism", oppositions delegation will focus on "the transitional governing body". The international and Arab envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will suggest an agreement on this point as part of "building trust procedures".


The western source said that "these procedures should not replace the negotiations for forming the transitional body, delaying the discussion in this subject will push the opposition to withdrawal".


The opposition delegation is headed by the president of the Coalition and consists of 29 members, including Haitham Maleh, Nazeer Hakim, Abulhamid Darwish, Michel Kilo, Badr Jamous, Anas Abdo, Suhair Atassi, Mohammad Hussam Hafez, Hadi al-Bahra, Muhammad Sabra, Rima Flehan, Ahmad Jaqal, Ibrahim Biro, Obaida Nahas, Abdulahad Steffo, Nour al-Amir and Abdulhakim Bashar.


Sources said that the Coalition allocated four seats for representatives of armed battalions, including the representative of Syrian Rebels Front headed by Jamal Marouf and the  Mujahedeen Army, which are the two groups that agreed on attendance at Geneva II, in addition to two defected officers.


The head of negotiations delegation will be Haitham Maleh, the head of the legal commission in the Coalition.


Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer


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