Adopt common line, United Nations appeals to Syrian opposition

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There had been speculation that the opposition, at the meeting, could soften its demands that Kremlin ally Assad leave power before any transition.

Previous rounds of Geneva peace talks have failed to make headway towards a resolution of the war. The countries participants are conducting negotiations in the Astana format pave the way for a political settlement in Syria.

Syria's main opposition stuck by its demand on Thursday that President Bashar al-Assad play no role in an interim period under any United Nations -sponsored peace deal, despite speculation it could soften its stance because of Assad's battlefield strength.

Syrian opposition meeting opens in Saudi capital

Syria opposition representatives meeting in the Saudi Arabian capital called Thursday for direct and unconditional negotiations with the Syrian government over the more than 6-year civil war that would lead to the launch of a transition period.

Iran-backed militias sowed "terrorism and sectarian strife" between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the communique said.

With the Syrian government controlling most of the country and Islamic State group fighters in disarray, Putin said during talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad earlier this week that Russia's military campaign in Syria is wrapping up - though he made no mention of the Russian presence in Syria, which Moscow is not likely to give up.

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A Cairo-based Syrian opposition group was initially reported to have agreed to join ranks with other opposition clusters including the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) - the largest block in the opposition - and the Istanbul-based National Coalition. Qadri Jamil, a senior member of the group, told Saudi-owned Al-Hadath TV that his group and the Cairo-backed opposition want a third of the seats in the opposition delegation to have the power to block decisions in a vote.

But some delegates later disputed that claim.

He explained that the committee will be represented by a delegation broader than before and it will have the experience needed to negotiate. "This is the point that is now under discussion", said Qadri Jamil, head of the Moscow group and a former Syrian deputy prime minister.

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Several key opposition figures have boycotted the meeting, including the Moscow group's Jamil and Riad Hijab of the HNC.

The opposition didn't condition its participation in the U.N-based negotiations on the departure of President Bashar Assad from office.

Thursday's statement from Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the military's General Staff, comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted counterparts from Turkey and Iran for talks on advancing peace process in Syria.

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Saudi Arabia, a backer of the Syrian opposition, said the aim of the "expanded" conference was to unify the groups in the run-up to the next round of negotiations in Geneva on November 28. Assad had made a surprise trip to Sochi late Monday for talks with Putin, which the Kremlin said were meant to lay the groundwork for Wednesday's trilateral meeting.

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