Syrian opposition picks head of unified delegation for peace talks

AFP-JIJI

Syria’s opposition on Friday selected a chief negotiator for a unified delegation to the U.N.-brokered peace talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in Geneva.

After three days of intense negotiation among opposition groups in Riyadh, Nasr al-Hariri, head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, was picked to lead a 36-member negotiating team for the talks starting on Tuesday.

“Al-Hariri was selected as the head of the delegation today,” opposition member Jamal Suleiman told reporters.

The delegation will comprise members from groups including the High Negotiations Committee — the largest bloc in the opposition.

Syria’s disparate opposition has been under heavy pressure to unify their ranks and row back on some of their more radical demands after a series of battlefield victories that have given Assad’s regime the upper hand.

“We expect the other side (Syrian regime) to come to the negotiations so that we can all move forward in the political process,” al-Hariri said.

Several rounds of talks hosted by the United Nations have failed to bring an end to the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 340,000 people since 2011 and forced millions from their homes.

Assad’s fate has been a major stumbling block in multiple rounds of negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition.