Syrian opposition held talks in Oslo

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Representatives of the Syrian opposition and several leaders of the Syrian military forces in opposition have met in Oslo during recent months, to talk about the way forward for the country ravaged by civil war. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Wednesday that Norway’s foreign ministry hosted the talks among participants who were invited by the US Brookings Institute.

NRK reported that 43 members of the Syrian opposition, including politicians, activists and soldiers, sat behind closed doors and windows at the Royal Christiania Hotel in downtown Oslo in August. The goal was to look forward, spur dialogue and bring together various factions of the opposition that have not spoken together earlier.

Searching for a political solution
“The main goal was to boost knowledge about the conflict and see what can be done to take the next steps forward, to form a basis for a political solution,” Bård Glad Pedersen, state secretary in the foreign ministry, told NRK. He said he didn’t take part in the talks, but ministry staff members who specialize in the Middle East did, and the ministry paid for the travel and accommodations of all 43 representatives.

Pedersen said that participants from war-town Syria included “people who have differing views on the conflict, and we’re evaluating what we can contribute towards a political process that we can take to the UN.”

All of those taking part in the talks were asked to maintain a low profile and many didn’t want any attention to be given to the talks. “For some of them, just taking part in the meeting could be risky,” Pedersen told NRK. “That’s why we didn’t actively offer information about them.”

Norway’s role ‘important’
“Norway’s participation in this is an important part of the talks,” Mohamad Khadam Aljamee of the Syrian political organization National Blog told NRK in Istanbul. “Norway has a long tradition of holding this type of talks. They have no interests in the area and good connections at the UN.”

Aljamee, who said he has been in Oslo twice this past summer, noted that brutally violent extremists, an opposition that’s split and constant bombing by Assad government forces have made the situation in Syria worse than ever. He said the talks in Oslo were among “the first and very important steps towards a more peaceful Syria, and I don’t know of any other attempt during the past three years that compares to what’s now being done in Oslo.”

The first meeting took place from August 21-25 and was initiated by the Brookings Institute, the US think tank. The talks were among several diplomatic initiatives aimed at finding ways of ending the civil war. Pedersen said the talks must be viewed in connection “with many other initiatives by many other players” who are trying to solve the conflict. Other talks have gone on in Washington, Berlin and Istanbul, where members of Syria’s Assad regime and the Syrian Coalition have been involved.

No one from the Assad government took part in the Oslo talks iin August. More talks are planned for October, with hopes that representatives of those supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will take part.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund