Saudi-backed Islamist rebel chief to be chief negotiator in Syria talks

Published January 20th, 2016 - 06:00 GMT

Syria's largest opposition coalition Wednesday selected a rebel chief backed by Riyadh as its top negotiator in peace talks scheduled to begin Jan. 25 in Geneva, AFP reported.

Mohammed Alloush, political leader of the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam will be the opposition's main negotiator, the coalition's general coordinator Riad Hijab announced in a press conference in Riyadh.

The coalition of political and militant opposition groups demanded excluding other groups from talks and a halt to sieges of Syrian cities by the Assad government.

"We will not go to negotiations if a third party or person is added," Hijab warned. 

"We cannot go to negotiations with our people dying of hunger and under shelling" by pro-regime forces, he added.

The countries pushing for a deal - Syria, Russia, Iran, the United States, and Saudi Arabia - have been in disagreement over which opposition groups should be allowed to participate in talks.

Russia and Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival, are the main supporters of the Assad government, and only want to allow rebel groups tolerated by the regime as delegates.

The newly formed secular Kurdish-Arab alliance has demanded its own delegation and says it refuses to be part of the Riyadh-backed body. 


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