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Moscow Excludes HNC from Astana Negotiations - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut – Preparations continue to launch the political talks between Syrian Opposition and representatives of the regime in Kazakh capital Astana. Yet, the peace efforts are threatened by three things: regime’s violation of the ceasefire, Moscow’s attempt to alienate the High Negotiation Committee (HNC), and the factions’ complete commitment to the attendance of the political opposition in the negotiation.

General Asaad Awad al-Zoabi, head of Syrian opposition delegation to Geneva, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that up until now, neither Russia nor Turkey have sent official invitations to the committee to attend the peace talks.

He pointed out: “The committee will soon hold a meeting in Riyadh.”

Zoabi pointed out that there are many vague issues in the articles of the ceasefire deal signed between the factions and the Russians.

Yet, Zoabi doesn’t seem worried saying that Russia can’t belittle the role of the HNC, adding: “we are sure that no negotiations can be done without the approval of the committee.

Zoabi also pointed out that Osama Abo Zeid, legal adviser for Free Syrian Army, stressed that no negotiations can be done, unless the HNC was present.

In addition, General Zoabi said that any negotiation can’t disregard U.N. Resolutions 2118 and 2254. He wondered why those resolutions are being ignored and the point behind holding the peace talks under the patronage or Russia and Turkey only.

A source close to the matter at the Syrian opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat that the HNC will meet in Riyadh on the 10th of January to discuss the latest developments and decide on whether to participate in Astana talks or not.

Member of political bureau of Free Syrian Army Zakaria Malahfaji believes that Russia wants to isolate influential regional and international parties from the ceasefire deal, and the Astana peace talks.

Malahfaji also said: “By meeting with the factions, Russia has made its intentions to alienate the HNC very clear. Yet, the factions which signed the deal are committed to represent the legal political forces represented by the Syrian coalition and High Committee, especially Dr. Riad Hijab.”

Mystery still surrounds the peace talks which Russia is rushing into having before Donald Trump is inaugurated as U.S. President.

Syrian Coalition Member Ahmad Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat that until now, the Astana agenda of the negotiations is still not clear, neither who the participants are, whether the U.N. will participate or not, the position of the 15 Syria allies, and the expected outcomes of this meeting.

Both Moscow and Ankara announced their brokered nationwide ceasefire and began the preparations for peace talks to reach a political solution for the Syrian crisis.

Ramadan stressed the opposition delegation should be formed of HNC in any negotiations. He added that the HNC includes representatives of the National Coalition, as the legitimate deputy of Syrian people, military powers, and the coordination committee.

Ramadan believes it is okay for the coordination committee to be represented within the HNC. He said, however, that independent opposition figures do not represent the opposition and can’t be present in the negotiations under the name of the opposition.