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Syrian Opposition Casts Off Any U.S./Russia Deal Unlike Own Plan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riad Hijab, who was chosen by Syrian opposition groups as coordinator of a negotiating body to lead future peace talks attends a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Syria’s main opposition negotiating group said it would refuse any deal concluded between Russia and the United States on Syria’s fate that was very different from its own proposed transition plan, the group’s general coordinator Riyad Hijab said on Wednesday in London as he presented his group’s road map for peace in Syria.

Hijab is the general coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee, the main opposition group involved in stalled U.N.-mediated peace talks in Geneva, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and Western powers opposed to Assad’s rule.

“If what the Russians and the Americans agree upon is very much different from what the Syrians aspire to, then we shall not accept it,” Hijab said.

In its roadmap, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) proposed a process that would start with six months of negotiations to set up a transitional administration made up of figures from the opposition, the government and civil society. It would require head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad to leave office at the end of those six months.

“This transitional period will begin with the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his clique, and of course those who have committed crimes against the Syrian people,” Hijab said.

The transitional body would then run the country for 18 months, after which there would be elections.

“It’s not a question of keeping Assad in for six months or one month or one day, in this transitional period. The Russians and Americans know that. They know the position of the Syrian people, they have sacrificed a lot and they will not give up this demand. There cannot be a solution in Syria unless it is a solution that satisfies the aspirations of the Syrian people.”


Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the group’s proposals offered the first credible picture of a peaceful Syria without Assad.

“There is still a chance that this vision can be made to work,” Johnson wrote in a column in Wednesday’s Times newspaper.

“If the Russians and Americans can together create a ceasefire, then the talks can restart in Geneva with the difference, perhaps, that all sides will by then have seen at least the scaffolding of a post-Assad Syria.”

Moscow and Washington are backing opposite sides in the 5-1/2-year-old Syrian ravaging war, with the Russians fighting on Assad’s side while the Americans back opposition groups and insist Assad must go.

The two powers have been negotiating in recent days, with Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin meeting for 90 minutes on Monday on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in China, but failed to reach an agreement.

However, efforts are still going on behind the scenes and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in London on Tuesday that an agreement was possible within 24 hours.

In a briefing with British reporters, Jubeir said it was right to pursue the diplomatic effort and “leave no stone unturned” in the quest for a political solution in Syria, but appeared pessimistic. He repeatedly said Assad was not trustworthy and was unlikely to comply with any agreement, especially with Iran’s determination to keep him in power in Damascus.