The official opposition in Syria on Thursday insisted President Bashar al-Assad play no role in the interim under any UN-sponsored peace deal.
Over 140 participants from different parts of the Syrian opposition gathered in Saudi Arabia. They slammed Iran’s presence in Syria, as the Shia Islamic Republic is backing the regime, and called on the Shia militias backed by Tehran to leave the country.
“The participants stressed that this (the transition) cannot happen without the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his clique at the start of the interim period,” opposition groups said after the meeting.
The communiqué described the Iranian-backed militias as seeking to spread “terrorism and sectarian strife” between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
The purpose of the meeting was to obtain a unified position ahead of a UN-backed peace deal, two years after Russia militarily intervened to help Assad’s government recapture Syria’s main cities.
“The Syrian opposition has sent thd message that it is ready to enter serious direct talks over a political transition in Syria and has a unified position and a vision for the future of Syria,” Ahmad Ramadan, an opposition spokesman, told Reuters.
The participants elected 50 members to a High Negotiations Committee which will be finalized on Friday, forming a delegation for the next round of UN-sponsored peace talks.
“We agreed with the group of components present here in Riyadh, and with the Cairo and Moscow platforms on the formation of one delegation to participate in direct negotiations in Geneva in a few days,” spokeswoman Basma Qadmani stated.
Staffan de Mistura, UN peace talks mediator, is preparing a new round of Geneva talks and will visit Russia on Friday to discuss the current situation in Syria.
The meeting’s results was contrary to the expectations that the groups would soften their position regarding Russia’s ally, Assad, leaving him in power as a stable transition is being sought.