Syria parties ‘preparing for peace talks’

Opposition and government to take part in internationally-sponsored peace conference, Syria peace envoy says.

Syria’s opposition and government are preparing to take part in an internationally-sponsored peace conference, according to Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations-Arab League mediator.

The conference was proposed by the US and Russia, which has backed the regime of Bashar al-Assad, earler this month.

“The Syrian people are building great hopes on the conference, as the opposition prepares itself to take part and likewise the Syrian regime prepares to take part in this conference,” he told reporters at the Arab League in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Tuesday.

“The United Nations is working to organise the conference in the best way possible.”

Meanwhile, Moaz al-Khtaib, the former president of the Syrian National Coalition, said the opposition is open to negotiating with the government of President Assad.

At a meeting of Syrian opposition groups in Spain on Tuesday, Khtaib said the opposition forces have no objection to a political solution to the conflict.

“All the opposition forces want is a solution for the Syrian people. Rebels have nothing to lose. They are determined to stay to the end. But we are facing unprecedented suffering.

“Therefore all opposition forces have no objection to finding a political solution, but not at the expense of more bloodshed.”

Al-Khatib resigned last week, citing the failure of the international community to stop the conflict as the reason.

Earlier on Tuesday, opposition groups at the meeting in Spain said they opposed all negotiation with Assad’s government unless it aimed at his giving up of power.

About 80 opposition representatives from inside and outside Syria concluded the two-day meeting on Tuesday, saying Assad would neither form part of any transition government nor have any role in Syria’s future.

Pressed back by army advances, Syria’s opposition is under international pressure to enter into dialogue with Assad’s government.

More than 80,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN, and 1.5 million people have fled the country since the uprising began in March, 2011.

Among the Madrid meeting’s aims was “to facilitate dialogue between the various movements in the Syrian opposition, thereby aiding its cohesion and its future capacity to ensure unity, stability and democracy in Syria,” the Spanish foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The international effort currently under way to this end requires the forming a strong, unified and diverse opposition capable of representing a common front.”

Spain in November recognised the coalition as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative, along with several Western and Arab powers.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies