Political, Military Opposition Converge on Riyadh to Secure Negotiating Mandate

Upcoming Riyadh Conference aims at forming a unified command to negotiate the details of a transitional governing body responsible for overseeing elections in Syria

After more than six months of preparations, the upcoming Riyadh Conference aims to unite both the political and military wings of the Syrian opposition after failing to secure any representation at the recent Vienna talks.

A number of Syrian opposition leaders, both political and military, were contacted by the Saudi government to hold a meeting in the first half of December. The meeting’s goal will be to agree on the formation of a unified command to negotiate the founding of a transitional government responsible for holding elections in Syria, in accordance with the results of last Sunday’s Vienna conference.

Informed sources confirmed that Syrian opposition delegations have already begun flocking to Riyadh over the past few days, noting that the president of the Syrian National Coalition, Khaled Khoja, also plans to visit Riyadh soon. The meeting will also be attended by representatives of a number of armed opposition groups, notably Ahrar ash-Sham Movement, the Southern Front alliance and the Army of Islam, whose commander, Zahran Alloush, was reported to have been in Saudi Arabia in the past few days.

The sources noted that the majority of political opposition bodies would likely attend the Riyadh meeting, though no invitations had yet been delivered. The Cairo Conference Committee, which includes several institutions of the Syrian opposition, including the Coordination Commission, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, as well as other institutions and independent figures, are also expected to attend the meeting.

The talks aim at holding a national conference to form a unified delegation, in order to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad over the political transition in accordance with Geneva statement, also taking into account developments that have taken place in Vienna, and will include all the "non-fabricated" opposition spectra, as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir put it, referring to the opposition with ties to Moscow and the Syrian government.

Preparations for the meeting in Riyadh follows an agreement between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to unify the Syrian opposition representation, and to cut the road in front of Moscow who seeks to form an alternative delegation alongside it.

The Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, declared the League is ready to participate in future meetings in order to unify the position of the opposition.

Talk about the Riyadh Conference coincides with Saudi and Qatari promises to support the armed Syrian opposition. After the Vienna II Conference, Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia would support the political process that will lead to the departure of Assad, or continue its support for the Syrian opposition in order to remove him by force.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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