Start of Saudi-Hosted Syrian Opposition Conference
Efforts to persuade Syrian rebel groups to unite are moving to Saudi Arabia ahead of a tight deadline for convening talks with Bashar al-Assad and maintaining the momentum of international diplomacy to end the war.
The conference in Riyadh, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, is an ambitious attempt to bring together disparate organisations whose divisions have been a serious barrier to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, which has hitherto lasted four and a half years.
It is expected to produce a document setting out a shared vision for the future of the country and to form a 25-member committee to represent the fragmented opposition camp.
The Saudis, who are working openly to overthrow Assad, have invited what they term all “moderate” opposition elements. That excludes the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, which are proscribed by the UN as terrorist organisations. But it includes other Islamist groups that western countries find too militant.