Saudi Arabia-hosted talks by a number of Syrian rebel factions ended today with a joint statement of principles, calling for a “pluralistic regime” to replace to existing one, conceding it could involve some members of the Assad government, but Assad had to unconditionally leave power.
The Riyadh talks conspicuously lacked a number of high-profile rebel factions, including every single Kurdish group. Ahrar al-Sham, the largest participating group, and whose leadership is linked to al-Qaeda,, walked out on the talks near the end.
Ahrar al-Sham reportedly objected to the amount of inclusion of Assad government figures in a proposed unity government, saying they were too willing to make concessions to the government. Other factions claimed Ahrar al-Sham still signed off on the closing statement, but this is being disputed by some other groups.
That any subsection of the rebels are open to talks at all is a big step, as for years they’ve spurned efforts at any sort of negotiations. Russia has been trying to start unity talks in recent months, and this might provide them some wiggle room to invite some of the factions involved, though without the Kurds, and likely without Ahrar al-Sham, the size of the rebel force represented is limited.
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