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Middle East

Syrian opposition adds rebel figures to Geneva delegation

  • Syrian opposition delegate Anas al-Abdah speaks to journalists after the first meeting face-to-face with Syrian government delegation at the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (not pictured) at a U.N. office in Geneva January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

GENEVA: The Syrian opposition has beefed up its delegation at the Geneva peace talks by adding for the first time representatives of rebel brigades that are fighting on the ground, a senior opposition member said on Monday.

Anas al-Abdah told reporters that a seven member "military and security" team has joined civilian figures from the Syrian National Coalition, who are negotiating an end to the three year conflict with President Bashar Assad's government.

They include the Syrian Rebels Front, led by Jamal Maarouf, which has been active against the al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Syria, and rebels from the southern province of Deraa, the cradle of the uprising.

Defectors from Assad's security apparatus are also on the team, which Abdah said would sit at the negotiating table if the talks get down to military issues.

He said the Islamic Front alliance, the biggest faction fighting Assad's forces, is not represented. The Front, part of which is backed by Gulf states, is opposed to Geneva but has toned down its criticism of the talks in the last few weeks.

"No one has a monopoly on the armed struggle. The Islamic Front has a problem with Geneva and we respect that. They are welcome to join us," Abdah said.

The second round of talks began on Monday, with mediator Lakhdar Brahimi holding separate sessions with the two sides, who are allowed 15 members each in the negotiating room at the United Nations in Geneva.

 
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