Oppn renews demand for Assad’s removal

BEIRUT: A solution to Syria’s war, now in its seventh year,can only be achieved with the departure of Syrian President Assad at the start of the transitional period, Syrian opposition groups meeting in Saudi Arabia said.
The Syrian opposition has been calling for the departure of Al Assad since the uprising started in 2011.
The some 150-delegates said Thursday they agreed in their final statement that “the goal of the political settlement is to establish a democratic state based on equality between citizens, enable Syrians to draft their constitution without interference, and to choose their leaders through free and transparent elections.”
They stressed that any direct negotiations should be done without preconditions.
The conferees mainly reiterated the demands which were discussed in the first round of UN-sponsored peace negotiations in Geneva in 2012.
The meeting began in Riyadh on Wednesday with the aim of forming aunited front ahead of the eighth round of the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva, due to be held next Tuesday.
The meeting comes after the head of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), former Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab, resigned from his position this week. The committee is in charge of carrying out negotiations in Geneva.
The HNC is taking part in the Riyadh meeting, which also comes as Iran, Russia, who back Al Assad, and Turkey, which backs some rebels,held a summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, in a move aimed at pressuring for a political solution for the Syria conflict.
Meanwhile, the size of the military force that Russia has in Syria is likely to be reduced, the chief of the general staff of the armed forces said on Thursday.
Russia’s military support of Syrian President Assad, notably through air strikes, has been crucial in defeating IS and Syrian opposition forces.
“God will decide how it (a reduction in the size of the military force) will happen, but probably it will happen,” Valery Gerasimov told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and military top brass in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Gerasimov declined to elaborate on the dates and scale of the possible troop draw down.
— Agencies