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Syria’s 2 main opposition groups agree on ‘roadmap’

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014 file photo, Hadi Bahra, a senior member of the Syrian National Coalition, the country's main political opposition group in exile, speaks during a press conference following his meeting with the Arab League's Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby at the league's headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. Syria's two main political opposition groups, the Syrian National Coalition and the National Coordination Body for the Forces of Democratic Change, said on Thursday, July 23, 2015 that they have agreed on a unified roadmap for a political solution to the country's long-running civil war. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s two main political opposition groups agreed on Thursday on a unified “roadmap” for a political solution to the country’s long-running civil war, representatives of the groups said.

The two parties have been trying for years to reach a common understanding on how to end the war in Syria. Their agreement came as the U.N. envoy, Staffan de Mistura, was in Damascus to press efforts to find a political solution to the country’s war.

But violence continued on the ground and suspected Islamic State militants fired at a Turkish military outpost from inside Syrian territory on Thursday, killing a Turkish soldier and wounding two others. Turkish troops retaliated to the attack and at least one IS militant was killed, according to Turkish official Suleyman Tapsiz, the governor for the Kilis province.

The attack follows a suicide bombing in a Turkish town near the Syrian border on Monday which killed 32 people. Authorities have blamed the attack on militants linked to IS.

Meanwhile in Brussels, where the Syrian opposition groups have been meeting, representatives of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and the National Coordination Body for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCB) said they would announce details of their agreement at a press conference the following day.

Members of the SNC, the main political group in exile, have long accused the Damascus-based NCB, whose leaders have been tolerated by the Syrian government, of being too lenient and even complicit with President Bashar Assad’s government. Members of the NCB, in turn, have often accused the SNC of being bankrolled by oil-rich Arab Gulf countries.

Their disagreements have contributed to the notorious divisions within the Syrian opposition.

“Today we are breaking the parable of lack of unity within the opposition,” Khalaf Dawohd, a member of the NCB’s executive committee, told The Associated Press from Brussels.

Hadi Bahra, a senior member of the SNC, said the agreement bolsters the unity and position of the opposition.

“It is a message to the international community to exert pressure and discuss seriously how to bring this (Syrian) regime to the table for a political transition,” he said.

Both groups are accused of being out of touch with the realities in Syria and have almost no following among the myriad of rebel groups fighting on the ground. But a unified political front could strengthen the opposition’s hand at any future peace talks with Assad’s government.

Staffan de Mistura, who arrived Thursday in the Syrian capital, has been meeting with Syrian politicians and regional stakeholders, trying to come up with a way to end the conflict in Syria, which has killed around 220,000 people since March 2011.

His office says he is working to finalize his proposals to the U.N. chief, Ban Ki-moon, on a way forward to support Syrian parties in their search of a political solution.

De Mistura held talks with Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, who said his country supports a regional effort to eliminate “terrorism.”

Al-Moallem said Syria considers eradicating terrorism a “fundamental priority.” The Syrian government considers all armed groups fighting to topple Assad as terrorist groups.

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