Syrian opposition resists Geneva II calls

Syrian opposition resists Geneva II calls
Wed Oct 23, 2013 07:52:00

Syria’s opposition in exile has resisted calls from Western and Arab countries to commit to attending Geneva II peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.

Eleven countries meeting in London pressed the opposition the so-called Syrian National Coalition to join talks to end the conflict that has killed over 100,000 people, but the group listed conditions and said it would decide in the coming weeks whether to attend.

“There will not be any negotiations at all without making sure that the Geneva II meeting is basically for the transitional period and for (President Bashar) Assad to go,” NSC chief Ahmad al-Jarba told a news conference after the meeting on Tuesday.

“We are not going to sit and negotiate with Assad possibly being there,” he said.

However, Jarba did not explicitly rule out joining the talks and said his group would meet soon, possibly in Istanbul on Nov. 1, to vote on whether to attend Geneva II.

The United States and Russia said in May they would convene a Geneva II peace conference in which both sides would agree a transitional political set-up to end the war, but it faces huge obstacles and no firm date has been set.

Assad, however, said Monday he saw no reason why he should not run for re-election next year.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, hosting Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the US, said it was vital that the Western-backed Syrian opposition join the talks.

“We urge the National Coalition to commit itself fully and to lead and form the heart of any opposition delegation to Geneva,” he told a news conference.

Many of the mostly extremist rebels fighting in Syria refuse to recognize the exiled opposition favored by the West.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said talks were the only possible way to end the war.

“This war will not come to an end on the battlefield ... it will come to an end through a negotiated settlement,” he said. “The only alternative to a negotiated settlement is continued, if not increased, killing.”

As for the National Coalition’s decision on Geneva II, Kerry said the Western-backed Syrian opposition members had “to make up their own mind.”

“None of us are going to prejudge or precondition what they will choose to do in that process,” Kerry said after the meeting.

Several officials, including Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, have said they expect Geneva II to convene on Nov. 23, though the US, Russia and the United Nations have all said no date has been officially set.

UN and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will meet again in early November with US and Russian officials to prepare for the conference, the United Nations said.

The preparatory meeting will be held in Geneva Nov. 5 and will be followed the same day by a meeting with the other three permanent members of the UN Security Council – France, Britain and China, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said. He did not say at what level they would meet.

Several preparatory meetings have previously been held in Geneva, the Hague and New York, generally at the level of deputy foreign ministers or undersecretary of state.

The United Nations maintains it is up to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to issue invitations, and he hasn’t done so yet.

As the opposition and its backers met in London, Brahimi visited the Sultanate of Oman, and will head to Jordan Wednesday, according to a UN spokesman.

Meanwhile, Brahimi’s deputy, Nasser al-Kidwa, was in Turkey to meet with Syrian opposition leaders.


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