Syria releases opposition figures detained en route to Riyadh talks

Published December 31st, 2015 - 09:30 GMT

Syrian authorities have released two prominent opposition members who were detained Wednesday while traveling to Riyadh for talks with other opposition groups, AFP reported.

Ahmad al-Asrawi and Munir al-Bitar, members of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC), were arrested at the Syrian-Lebanese border, said the group's secretary general, Yahya Aziz.

Both were traveling to Saudi Arabia to join other members of the opposition's "supreme committee for negotiations," Aziz told AFP.

The committee plans to choose at least a partial opposition delegation for peace talks with the Assad government next month. Asrawi and Bitar were due to finalize plans for the meetings on Jan. 1, according to a statement from the committee.

Aziz said Asrawi and Bitar were taken "to an unknown location," adding, "Those who want a political solution would not do this."

"The regime and its allies Russia and Iran are not serious about the political process, (because) they are targeting members of the Riyadh conference that are committed to a political solution," the statement said.

Their arrests came just days after the Syrian army claimed responsibility for killing rebel leader Zahran Alloush, who was chief of Jaish al-Islam, the most powerful rebel faction in Damascus province. 

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Tuesday condemned the killing, saying it "not serve the peace process and (efforts) to achieve a political solution in Syria".

The Assad government refers to Jaish al-Islam as "terrorists," but has conceded it is ready to take part in new peace talks.

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