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The Syrian Experts Group

Syria is dying and Riyadh conference must save it

IS cannot be defeated without defeating Assad too, Syrian opposition activists have argued [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 December, 2015

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The Syrian opposition conference in mid-December must agree a set of principles and measures to ensure success and effective negotiations with Syrian regime, argues independent opposition The Syrian Experts Group.
Today, most Syrians and the world aspire for a just and viable solution that can end the disaster in Syria.

The Syrian opposition conference in Saudi Arabia, convening as part of the wider Vienna peace process for Syria, will be a crucial juncture.

This is despite the large disparity in the attitudes and goals of the conferees.

Indeed, the conference will represent the broadest spectrum of Syrian opposition forces yet.
Breakdown of the Vienna Peace plan
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Both the key political and military opposition factions, which control large parts of Syrian territory, will be present.

This means that the opposition delegation to be formed by the conference to handle upcoming negotiations with the regime would be in a strong position to implement what would be agreed with the Syrian government.

That is, the if the regime and its backers are honest about wanting to reach a political settlement in accordance with the Geneva principles.

But in order for the conference to succeed, there are several requirements that need to be satisfied to guarantee unifying the opposition around certain points.

First, all participants must embrace the principle of political transition in Syria, where there can be no role for Bashar al-Assad and his clique, neither during nor after transition.

These men are responsible first and foremost for everything that has happened in Syria.

Read more:Syrian opposition experts launch 'post-Assad roadmap' ahead of conference

The participants must set in stone the unity and independence of Syria, under a decentralised and pluralistic government.

The system of government must be modern and based on the peaceful transfer of power through elections, and must grant all Syrian citizens equal rights regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sect and region.

The conference must be well organised, and must produce workable drafts and tangible outcomes, unlike previous opposition conferences.

The conference must adopt in its vision the Geneva Declaration of June 30, 2012, and UN resolutions led by UNSC resolution 2118, calling for a transitional governing body with full powers to lead political transition and implement the terms of the Geneva Communique.

The conference's outcomes must become the reference point for negotiations with the regime. The conference must approve any agreement later concluded between the opposition delegation and the regime delegation before it could come into effect.

Who supports whom in Syria?

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The conference must elect 9 to 11 figures to become the "political leadership" of the negotiating process, acting as the secretariat of the conference and guiding the work of the negotiating delegation.

This political leadership would choose the opposition's delegation for negotiations with the regime. The members of this team must be principled and skilled negotiators.

Specific binding criteria would then be drafted for negotiations, with continuous follow up of the process it starts.

This political leadership must also form specialist technical teams to support the negotiating team, covering fields like law, media, military affairs and others.

These teams would prepare in-depth dossiers on detainees, war crimes, and links between Assad and terrorism, etc.

The conference must adopt a national charter of action for future Syria, using the formula of the opposition's conference in July 2012.

A military code of honour must also be drafted, guiding the conduct and commitments of armed opposition factions.

The Syrian Experts Group includes independent figures Riad Hijab, Hazem Nahar, Mohammad Sabra, Shams al-Din al-Kilani and Samir Suaifan

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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