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Syrian opposition unites ahead of Moscow meetings: opposition sources - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Hadi Al-Bahra, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, speaks during a press conference following a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby in Cairo, Egypt, on December 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Hadi Al-Bahra, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, speaks during a press conference following a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby in Cairo, Egypt, on December 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Syrian opposition is preparing to attend meetings with the Assad regime in Moscow, expected to take place in January, according to representatives from the two main umbrella opposition groups.

Qasim Al-Khatib, the representative of the Syrian National Coalition in Cairo, told Asharq Al-Awsat that both his organization and the National Coordination Committee had met in the Egyptian capital in the past few days and had decided to present “a united vision” for a solution to the conflict in Syria, as well as a “political roadmap within the context of the Geneva I meetings revolving around a united [opposition] council.”

“There is now almost full agreement between all the opposition groups who believe in a political solution [to the crisis] on paper. We will follow this up when we meet in Cairo again soon,” Khatib said.

The Coalition was also coordinating with a large number of other opposition groups and personalities, he said, “in order to have a strong delegation at the conference in Moscow.”

He added, however, that the Coalition was yet to receive an invitation to the proposed meetings in the Russian capital.

“The general and political committees of the Coalition will look into accepting any invite of this kind, and will make a decision that proves our commitment to a political solution within the context of the Geneva I meetings,” he said.

The Geneva Communique issued following the UN-brokered Geneva I conference in June 2012 called for the formation of a transitional government in Syria that could include both government and opposition figures.

However, both sides have refused to share power. A second Geneva conference held in January 2014 yielded little progress in reaching a lasting peace settlement.

Proposed meetings between the opposition and the government have been fraught with difficulties, with the opposition insisting on there being no place for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in the country’s future.

The latest proposed meeting, brokered by Russia, has also faced resistance from opposition groups due to Moscow’s support for Assad.

Majid Habo, the secretary of the National Coordination Committee, told Asharq Al-Awsat that his organization had received an invitation to the Moscow conference.

He said work now was ongoing between the different opposition groups “to head to Russia with a united opposition front with one document.”

Habo said both the National Coordination Committee and the Syrian National Coalition were preparing a document to be signed by all the different opposition groups and factions calling for the Geneva Communique “to be the main reference point” for any talks with the government.

He said the document being prepared by the opposition groups “calls for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held, and leaves all matters of the eventual destiny of the country to the Syrian National Council, emphasizing that the fight against terrorism in the country will be a joint mission for the new political administration.”

He said there was agreement between the National Coordination Committee and the Syrian National Coalition on most points in the document except for a few matters of procedure, and that further talks in Cairo within the next few days would seek to get opposition groups to sign the document “before we head to Moscow.”

Meanwhile, the pro-Assad Syrian daily, Al-Watan, carried comments from an unnamed Arab diplomatic source in Moscow who said the meetings will take place on January 26, and would last for four days, with the first meeting between the two sides taking place on January 27.

He said, however, that the talks would not constitute “negotiations” or substantive talks of any kind, only that they would be “preliminary consultations” paving the way for any possible future meetings between the two sides.