Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Syria Government Prepared for Geneva Talks; US-backed Rebels Will Attend

Syrian govt and opposition both confirm attendance at Geneva 2

Published time: November 27, 2013 23:31

Syria’s government along with the main Western-backed opposition coalition have confirmed that both will attend the UN-sponsored peace conference.

The repeatedly delayed peace talks are scheduled for January 22 in Geneva and will bring together Syria’s President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition for the first time since the bloody conflict began in March of 2011.

Despite their confirmed participation, the two sides still see talks going into different directions. The opposition wants to see a transitional government to emerge, while Assad’s government has stated that it is not attending the conference to hand over power.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Assad will send an official delegation to the conference, highlighting that representatives “will be going to Geneva not to hand over power to anyone,” but to meet with those “who support a political solution for Syria's future,” AP quoted the statement as saying on Wednesday.

The Western-backed Syrian opposition coalition also said it will be attending. "We are now ready to go to Geneva," Reuters quoted Jarba as saying during a visit to Cairo, adding that the opposition sees the Geneva talks as a way towards a transitional government and a "genuine democratic transformation in Syria,” noting that Assad cannot be a part of that government.

"There is no way that the individual responsible for the destruction of the country can be responsible for building the country," said Jarba, referring to Assad.

The opposition group also made it clear earlier that it would need humanitarian corridors to surrounded rebel areas and the release of political prisoners.

The complete list of participants in the talks has not yet been agreed upon. The opposition is fighting against Iran’s attendance, arguing that it must stop taking part in the Syrian war if it wants to attend.

"Iran is responsible for and takes part in the killing in Syria in a very clear way. It killed thousands of Syrians with its Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries from Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist group," Jarba told Reuters. "If Iran is serious about resolving the Syrian crisis, it must first withdraw its Revolutionary Guards and (Lebanese) Hizbollah mercenaries."

Negotiations were delayed in the past as attempts to bring both sides to the negotiating table failed. Key hurdles involved clarifying whether Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other regional powers should be attending the conference, and the issue of Assad remaining in power.

According to Syrian officials, Assad has no plans to give up power and is even planning to run in the upcoming elections in mid-2014.

The two-year conflict has already killed more than 100,000 people and displaced over one million refugees. According to the country’s officials Syria’s economy has lost an estimated US$100 billion during the war - the equivalent of two years of normal production.

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