Vice News reports: The Syrian opposition came together in Riyadh this week for a conference sponsored by the Saudi government — and by the time it ended Thursday, it was the most successful attempt to date to unify Syria’s fractious opposition and ultimately produce a negotiated solution to the Syrian civil war. But there was a potentially crippling problem: One of the biggest rebel groups in Syria, the Salafist brigade Ahrar al-Sham, withdrew from the proceedings just as they were concluding, leaving the negotiators without a key player.
Other brigades endorsed the conference platform, and armed rebels will hold 11 of 34 seats in a new body to oversee negotiations with the regime of Bashar al-Assad. That’s less than their weight on the ground, yet enough to give them a real stake in talks. But the defection by Ahrar al-Sham, which has apparently sided with jihadist irreconcilables who want nothing to do with a negotiated solution, means the prospect of a settlement may be slightly closer but is still remote. [Continue reading…]