Syria opposition demands ‘radical change’

The National Coalition was informally represented in Cairo by several members, including Ahmed Jarba

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Syria’s opposition factions called Saturday for “radical democratic change” in the war-torn country ahead of April talks aimed at unifying their plan for a political solution to the conflict.

In a two-day conference held in Cairo, the regime-tolerated opposition met with members of the exiled National Coalition and agreed on a 10-point vision, as well as announcing fresh talks slated for April.

The groups agreed that “any negotiation process should lead to... a democratic regime and a sovereign civil state,” according to a joint statement.

They added that any political solution to Syria’s four-year civil war “must guarantee a radical democratic change that criminalizes violence and sectarianism.”

The National Coalition was informally represented in Cairo by several members, including Ahmed Jarba, a former coalition chief who is close to Saudi Arabia.

A Coalition source had earlier said its members were not attending the Cairo meet in an official capacity.

The next opposition general conference “aims at agreeing on a unified political vision and to unify the opposition’s efforts,” said Saleh al-Nebwani, member of the regime-tolerated domestic National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change.

The Coalition and top opposition figure Moaz al-Khatib previously announced they will not attend talks with the Syrian regime in Moscow this month aimed at finding a political solution to the war that has killed more than 200,000 people so far.

But the internal opposition said on Saturday that some invited members were expected to attend the meeting.

Fayez Sarah from the National Coalition said the Cairo meeting did not discuss the Moscow talks “because a decision was already taken” on this issue.

Moscow’s effort to host the peace talks comes after two U.N.-brokered meetings in Geneva last year between regime and opposition representatives failed to produce results.

Russia is the most powerful backer of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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