Syrian opposition agree to participate in talks in Geneva

Monday 11 November 2013 16.57
Syrian National Coalition have agreed to peace talks
Syrian National Coalition have agreed to peace talks

The Western-backed Syrian opposition has agreed to participate in international peace talks in Geneva.

A statement by the Syrian National Coalition, translated from Arabic, outlined conditions that must be met before the talks.

The talks are aimed at ending Syria's two-and-a-half year civil war, by creating a transitional governing body.

The Syrian National Coalition's leader has expressed a willingness to attend the US and Russian sponsored talks.

This is the first time the group as a whole has committed to the proposed conference, while making stipulations.

It was hoped that the talks would take place before the end of November.

The Syrian coalition's failure to come up with a clear stance, as well as differences between Washington and Moscow over the purpose of the talks and opposition representation has created delays.

The coalition held that previous commitments, such as the aims set out at a first round of Geneva talks and the discussions in London at the end of October, should form the basis for further discussions.

The statement said there must be a guarantee that relief agencies would be allowed access to besieged areas.

Also sought is the release of political prisoners and a request that any political conference should result in a political transition.

Major Islamist rebel brigades have declared their opposition to the Geneva process if the conference does not result in President Bashar al-Assad's removal.

 Some have said they would charge anyone who attended the planned international talks with treason.

With this resistance in mind, the statement said that a committee had been assigned to continue talks with revolution forces inside and outside Syria to explain its stance on "Geneva 2," as the talks are referred to in diplomatic circles.

The Syrian National Coalition reached the consensus decision after two days of discussions.

"All we can do is hope is that these (Geneva) talks will end with the departure of Bashar al-Assad," said Adib Shishakly, a member of the coalition.

The coalition's general assembly meeting was set to continue today and to approve a cabinet, led by Ahmad Tumeh, which would get to work trying to restore order in rebel-held areas.