Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Moscow Excludes HNC from Astana Negotiations | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2ndL) and France’s Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault (2ndR) attend a meeting on Syria, in Paris, France, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Thibault Camus/Pool

Beirut – Preparations are continuing to launch the political talks between the Syrian Opposition and representatives of the regime in the Kazakh capital of Astana. Yet, the peace efforts are threatened by three issues: The regime’s violation of the ceasefire, Moscow’s attempt to alienate the High Negotiations Committee, and the third is the factions’ full 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 till now, neither Russia nor Turkey has sent official invitations for 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 unclear and vague issues in the clauses of the ceasefire deal signed between the factions and Russia.

Yet, Zoabi doesn’t seem concerned, saying 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 Zed, legal adviser of Free Syrian Army, stressed that no negotiations can be carried out, 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 highly informed source 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 the Astana talks or not.

Member of political bureau of FSA Zakraia 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.”

Yet, mystery still surrounds the peace talks deal which Russia is rushing into striking before Donald Trump is inaugurated as U.S. President.

Syrian Coalition Member Ahmad Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat that up till now, the agenda of the negotiations is still not clear, 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 opposition.