Rifts overshadow Syria meeting in Riyadh
Rifts have overshadowed a meeting of opposition groups, including militants linked to Daesh terrorists, in the Saudi capital.
The chairman of the conference said on Friday the groups had agreed to meet the Syria government next month for talks on eneding nearly five years of conflict.
The announcement came after a major terrorist group, Ahrar al-Sham, withdrew from the meeting, exposing enduring divisions among foreign-backed militants and casting doubt on the significance of any pledges made at the conference.
The group said in a statement that its withdrawal was an objection to the a major role given to the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, a Damascus-based opposition group. The group said the militants operating inside Syria were under-represented at the meeting.
Saudi officials said more than 100 members of opposition groups from inside and outside Syria took part in the two-day meeting, which began Wednesday.
Abdulaziz al-Sager, the Saudi chairman of the meeting, said at a news conference on Friday that the opposition groups had agreed to meet with Damascus officials.
“There will be a meeting decided by (United Nations envoy Staffan) de Mistura in January,” Sager said, adding, “This will take place in the first 10 days of January.”
Saudi Arabia is a main supporter of militant groups, fighting to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
A senior Iranian diplomat said groups linked to Daesh terrorists were involved in the Riyadh talks and that Tehran did not approve of the meeting.
“Some of the terrorist groups linked to Daesh are involved in the talks. These terrorist groups will not be allowed to decide Syria’s future,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said.
Two rounds of international talks on the conflict in Syria have been held in Vienna on October 30 and November 14.
Amir-Abdollahian said, “We do not approve of the Riyadh meeting. It is not in line with the Vienna talks.”