Syrian opposition sets conditions for talks

Opposition leader tells ‘Friends of Syria’ conference in London that President Assad has to go before they participate.

The Syrian opposition will not attend talks in Geneva seeking to resolve the ongoing civil war unless several conditions are met, including the removal of Bashar al-Assad, the president.

“We cannot be part of those responsible for shedding the blood of our people,” Syria opposition chief Ahmad Jarba said at a news conference on Tuesday following talks in London. 

Jarba maintained that opposition leaders be considered traitors if they agreed to the Geneva conference without first securing needed “foundations” – necessary preconditions in light of what he called prior “failures” by the international community to end the escalating conflict.    

“If we say yes to Geneva 2 conference, people will cry out for the downfall of the conference,” he said. “Our people have grown weary of false promises and empty words. What right are you asking us to shoulder this huge responsibility?”

The conditions include safe passage in beseiged areas, the release of detained men, women and children, and setting a fixed timetable for all the phases of negotiation. 

British Foreign Minister William Hague reiterated the importance of the Geneva conference in securing peace in Syria saying, “Assad would play no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria”. 

The London talks were a preamble to persuade Syrian opposition leaders to attend the Geneva conference.

Hague stressed that efforts were being made to bring all sides to a negotiating table in Geneva but stopped short of saying Syria’s opposition had agreed to attend the talks.

He said the London meeting was aimed at persuading Syria’s opposition to have a “united position” for the conference scheduled for November 23 and said they had agreed on a number of steps.

US Secretary John Kerry echoed Hague’s words while stressing that the Syrian war will not be won on the battlefield but at the negotiating table.

“I don’t know anybody including the Russians and others in the region who are not part of the support group who believe there is a military solution to this conflict. It is clear both sides will continue to fight, and to fight, and to fight,” he said. 

Tuesday’s talks were attended by the so-called London 11, the core group of the Friends of Syria that consists of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, together with opposition leaders.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies