Saudi Arabia is hosting a meeting of Syrian opposition groups on Tuesday with the aim of developing a unified voice for groups seeking the removal of the Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Representatives of several rebel groups will meet in the Saudi capital Riyadh in an attempt to reach a common position from which to negotiate with the Syrian government ahead of a second round of negotiations in Vienna in January. The talks in Riyadh are expected to last several days.
Saudi Arabia invited 100 persons, including representatives of the Western-backed political alliance the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Also invited were members of the National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change, the Southern Front alliance, and the two Islamists groups Ahrar Al-Sham and Jaysh Al-Islam.
Twelve opposition groups will also attend the conference under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army.
Invitations were not sent out to members of Kurdish groups or the Nusra Front. The Kurdish People’s Protection Unit said that any attempt to unify the opposition without the Kurds being involved will not succeed.
World powers are seeking to arrange talks in next month between a delegation representing a unified opposition and representatives of the Syrian government.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Gobier discussed the Syrian situation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Monday. The latter agreed to invite more groups to the Ryaidh meeting in order to help the UN envoy to Syria to form a united opposition delegation.
Lavrov said Russia is ready to participate in Syria talks to be held in New York on 18 and 19 December, but only on condition that all world leaders agree on the categorisation of terrorist groups.
Iran, one the allies of Bashar Al-Assad, said the Riyadh meeting will have a negative impact on the second round of Vienna talks.
The former president of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, said he hopes that the meeting will bring a positive outcome.
After his meeting with the Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil El-Araby in Cairo, Jarba said: “The current Syrian situation is very complicated; there is an international decision to unify the Syrian opposition in Riyadh.”