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Syria agrees to attend Geneva peace talks

Letter, obtained by Al Jazeera, by Syrian Foreign Minister appears to set conditions for talks aimed at ending conflict.

Last updated: 16 Jan 2014 22:11
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Syrian government has agreed to attend the upcoming Geneva peace talks, according to a leaked letter obtained by Al Jazeera, as international community tries to reach a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis.

The letter from the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem to the Secretary General of the United Nations appears to set conditions for the peace talks to be held on January 22 aimed at ending the nearly three year civil war.

"It should be noted that we do not agree with certain points mentioned in the letter of invitation, simply for the reason that they are in conflict with the legal and political position of the State of Syria," Muallem writes in reply to an invitation from Ban Ki-Moon.

Muallem goes on to say, “...It remains a priority for the Syrian people to continue to fight terrorism....”

"We demand the countries supporting terrorism cease and refrain from funding, training, arming or harbouring terrorist groups in harmony with international law and UN resolutions."

The main umbrella opposition body in exile, the Syrian National Coalition, has said that the letter undermines the talks.

This comes as Syria's centrist internal opposition group, which rejects the armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, said on Thursday that it would not attend peace talks in Switzerland next week.

Khaled Dahowd, an executive member of the National Coordination Body (NCB), accused Russia and the United States of rushing the conference to promote their own interests in the region, rather than those of the Syrian people.

Tense relations 

The NCB has tense relations with the Syrian National Coalition, which is rife with internal divisions and will only decide whether it will send representatives at the meeting on January 17.

Analysis: Skepticism and hope on Syria talks in Geneva

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy to Syria, said in a statement that he deeply regretted but respected the NCB's decision.

Meanwhile, Syria's National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar has said that the so-called Geneva II peace talks will not solve the Syrian crisis.

Speaking at a seminar in Damascus, Haidar said: "Don't expect anything from Geneva II. Neither Geneva II, not Geneva III nor Geneva X will solve the Syrian crisis."

"The solution has begun, and will continue through the military triumph of the state... and through the staying power and resilience of the state and all its institutions, in the face of its enemies who were betting on its collapse," he said.

The peace conference is aimed at bringing to the negotiation table regime and opposition representatives.

The United States, which backs the opposition, and Russia, Assad's main arms supplier, have pushed Syria's warring parties to meet at the talks under the auspices of the UN.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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