UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said that a proposed Geneva peace conference to end the war in Syria cannot be held without the participation of the opposition.
“If the opposition does not participate there will be no Geneva conference,” Brahimi said at a news conference in Damascus on Friday before returning to Beirut as part of a regional tour to try to garner support for the peace initiative backed by US and Russia.
“The participation of the opposition is essential, necessary and important,” the veteran Algerian diplomat said, adding that the proposed conference was a conference for the Syrians and not for the international community.
The opposition is divided over whether or not to attend the long-delayed conference, which Russia and the US first proposed in May.
“The opposition, whether the National Coalition or others, are trying to find a way to be represented,” Brahimi said, referring to the main opposition bloc.
Rebels and the political opposition say that any negotiations should be based on the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Coalition, which is under pressure from its Western and Arab backers to attend the Geneva talks, is to meet on November 9 to decide whether to participate.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, has said it will not talk peace with the armed opposition, further slimming the possibility for talks to take place.
US, Russian and UN envoys are to meet in Geneva on Tuesday as part of preparations for talks.
Russia hopes the conference will be held before the end of this year, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.
He appealed to both sides in Syria’s civil war to compromise and criticised the opposition for demanding assurances of Assad’s departure as a condition for the talks.
“It’s a difficult process and everyone must compromise, including opposition leaders and the Syrian government, of
course,” he told Reuters news agency.
Russia has been Assad’s most powerful backer during the two-and-a-half-year-old conflict, delivering weapons, blocking three UN Security Council resolutions meant to pressure him and saying his exit cannot be a precondition for peace talks.
The Syrian uprising, which started with protests and gradually turned into a civil war, has claimed more than 100,000 lives, according to UN and opposition estimates.