Saudi invites Syrian opposition ahead of talks

Sixty five Syrian opposition figures are invited to Riyadh in an attempt to try to unify their positions ahead of proposed Syrian peace talks

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Saudi Arabia has issued invitations to 65 Syrian opposition figures to attend a conference in Riyadh to try to unify their positions ahead of proposed Syrian peace talks, Saudi newspapers reported on Tuesday.

Asharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat said no date has yet been set for the Riyadh meeting, but quoted unnamed sources as saying it could take place next week.

Asharq al-Awsat quoted Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) opposition group, as saying that the Saudi foreign ministry had “invited 65 figures to attend the conference in Riyadh.”

He said 20 members of the coalition, which is based outside Syria, had been invited, along with seven from the National Coordination Body, an internal opposition group.

Another 10 to 15 places were allocated to rebel leaders and 20 to 25 to independents, business leaders and religious figures, the paper quoted Ramadan as saying.

Saudi Arabia, a main supporter of opposition groups seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, has said it was in contact with them about the conference, which comes after an international agreement to launch talks between the government and the opposition by Jan. 1.

The Riyadh meeting marks an attempt to bring together groups whose disunity has been a long-standing obstacle in seeking a peaceful solution to the nearly five-year conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced millions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Abu Dhabi with United Arab Emirates officials and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir last week to discuss ways of bringing the opposition together.

Al-Hayat newspaper quoted NCB co-chairman, Hassan Abdul-Azim, as saying he had sent a list of 22 nominees, including the head of the Kurdish Democratic Union, Saleh Muslim.

Muslim had said earlier last month that Syrian Kurds need political and military representation at the opposition conference in Riyadh.

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