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    Riyadh Conference Undermined by Extremist Influence

    © AFP 2019 / BARAA AL-HALABI
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    The inclusion of radical extremists, and the exclusion of the Kurds, at the Riyadh conference renders it a weak foundation for peace talks, analyst Theodore Karasik told Sputnik.

    The talks held in Saudi Arabia for many of the players in the Syrian crisis were a "reach out by Riyadh" but nevertheless represents a weak foundation for future diplomatic discussions to resolve the crisis, Theodore Karasik, UAE-based geopolitical advisor, told Sputnik.

    ​Saudi Arabia invited 116 representatives from political and militant groups in Syria to its two-day conference in Riyadh, but some of them had ties to extremist groups, said Karasik.

    "Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar have been assisting some of the extremist groups on the ground in Syria. This Riyadh conference was to try to level the playing field, so that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are able to voice or showcase the groups that they have been supporting." 

    "This is why I'm a little apprehensive, and others are surprised at what the Saudis are trying to do here, in terms of making sure that the right people are being put into political play as opposed to those players who will only further aggravate the political situation on the ground in the Levant."

    Despite such concerns, Karasik noted the presence of many different groups at the conference, which could lay some foundation for negotiations.

    "The Syrian National Congress was there, which is a prominent opposition group, but also was the Damascus-based Syrian National Coordination Body which represents President Assad."

    "Many of the groups that are represented at this conference, they tend to switch allegiances frequently based on where they are located in Syria … depending on the terror group or terror state that is operating in that region."

    One talking point of the talks was the exclusion of the Kurds, which Karasik said was due to the divisions of the Kurdish communities in the region. He explained that the Saudi leadership had no wish to address the issues of Kurdish representation, by choosing who to invite.

    "This is a big question that any other future diplomatic conference is going to have to deal with, and it seems that at the Riyadh conference, the Saudis did not want to deal with the Kurdish issue."

    The various Kurdish factions operating in Syria need to voice their opinions about the possible future federal structure of Syria, said Karasik. In addition, the roles of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which fights Daesh but also attacks Turkey, and the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, also need to be resolved.

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    conference, Daesh, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia
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