Syrian opposition forces begin peace talks. Where will they lead?

After years of fighting, several factions met this week in Saudi Arabia to outline potential negotiations with Syrian President Assad.

Retuers/Ammar Abdullah
Civilians who left the Homs district of Waer under a local truce, arrive in buses at Idlib, Syria this week. Busloads of Syrians including rebel fighters left the last insurgent-held area of Homs on Wednesday under a rare local truce in Syria's nearly five-year conflict.

Syrian opposition groups on Thursday agreed to discourse with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a potentially momentous step toward peace during a years-long civil war that has devastated the region.

A group of Syrian opposition members, including about two dozen politicians and rebels, met in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh for two days this week to hash out an outline toward peace.

The United Nations in a statement said the factions are “ready to negotiate with representatives of the Syrian regime,” though with the stipulation that Assad would be excluded from a shift to any potential new government, the AFP said.

Several of the opposition’s main factions attended the conference, including the Western-backed National Coalition, one of the main opposition groups. One group withdrew from talks, having complained that figures close to the Assad government were being given too prominent a role, the BBC said.

Representatives of the Free Syrian Army, which is backed by the West, and two Sunni factions supported by the Saudi government also joined the talks, according to The Washington Post.

National Coalition member Monzer Akbik told Al-Jazeera the meeting was comprised of 25 representatives in total from the opposition’s two main factions and a variety of smaller opposition groups. Reuters reported that another separate team of 15 negotiators would be selected at a later time.

"These are representatives of all the opposition factions, political and military, and they are going to be the decision makers in terms of the political settlement," he said.

The terms for potential talks were first laid out last month in Vienna during a conference among 17 countries that included the US, Russia, and Middle Eastern countries, who are pushing both sides toward a political solution.

The groups agreed to “democratic mechanism through a pluralistic regime that represents all sectors of the Syrian people” including women, Reuters reported.

On Thursday, opposition groups said the Syrian military should stop executions and indiscriminate bombing, release captured opposition members, and pull back from contested areas to allow humanitarian assistance, the AFP reports.

"The aim of the political settlement is to create a state based on the principle of citizenship without Bashar al-Assad or figures of his regime having a place in it or any future political arrangements," the group said. "Participants have insisted that Bashar al-Assad and his aides quit power with the start of the transition period.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier on Thursday that the groups made progress toward peace talks, though “we have some tough issues to get over.”

“I think everybody is moving in the direction that they want to rapidly get to a political process and get it under way under UN auspices,” he told the Post.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Syrian opposition forces begin peace talks. Where will they lead?
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2015/1210/Syrian-opposition-forces-begin-peace-talks.-Where-will-they-lead
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe