A number of members of the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee, including HNC head Riad Hijab, have reportedly resigned ahead of crucial talks in Saudi Arabia and Geneva.
Riad Hijab, a former Syrian prime minister under President Bashar al-Assad, said in a statement that he is stepping down as head of the HNC after two years in the post.
Dr Riad Hijab, the head of Syrian opposition's Higher Negotiation Committee, resigns, ahead of the Riyadh-sponsored opposition conference (known as Riyadh 2). pic.twitter.com/Cn8Iwmw3h8
— Hassan Hassan حَسَنْ (@hxhassan) November 20, 2017
Hijab did not give a reason for his decision but referred in the statement to attempts by foreign powers to carve up Syria into zones of influence “through side deals made without consulting the Syrian people.”
The statement said Hijab felt “compelled” to resign his position. A number of other HNC resignations were reported on social media.
Those who have resigned from the HNC so far:
Dr Riad Hijab
Dr Riad Na'san Agha
Major General Abdul Aziz Al-Shalal
Lieutenant Colonel Abu Bakr
Major Abu Osama Al-Joulani
Dr Abdul Hakim Bashar
— FSA News (@FSAPlatform) November 20, 2017
The resignations from the High Negotiations Committee come as preparations are underway to host a two-day “expanded” Syrian opposition conference in Saudi Arabia starting Wednesday, ahead of U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva scheduled for November 28. The Saudi conference aims to unify the opposition position ahead of Geneva, Saudi state news agency SPA reported last week.
The HNC has been one of the main representative bodies of the Syrian opposition since its formation at a meeting in Saudi Arabia in December, 2015.
In February 2017, Hijab rejected U.N. Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s statement that he would will select delegates for the Geneva talks, and objected to the participation of the mainly Kurdish PYD political party.
The HNC has been criticised because it includes Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam. Its September 2016 transition plan was also criticized by Syria’s Kurdish National Council and the Assyrian Democratic Organization because it did not address minority ethnic groups, In 2017, the Kurdish National Council withdrew from the HNC.
Other conferences on Syria
The HNC opposed the Russia-sponsored Syrian Congress on National Dialogue which was due to be held in Sochi, Russia on November 18. Mohammad Alloush, a HNC member and a political leader of the Saudi-backed Islamist rebel group Jaysh al-Islam, said the congress would be meeting “between the regime and the regime.”
Turkey also opposed the congress because it included the mainly Kurdish PYD political party. The congress was postponed on November 17.
Turkey, Russia and Iran are instead meeting in Sochi to discuss the situation in Syria’s Idlib province and and the majority-Kurd Efrin canton, culminating in a meeting between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on November 22.
With reporting from AP