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Daily Israel Report

Syrian Opposition: Assad's Exit Must be Objective of Talks

Syrian National Coalition says it will not take part in a planned peace conference unless the objective is Assad’s removal from power.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/23/2013, 4:12 AM

(Illustration) Syrian rebels take positions in Aleppo
(Illustration) Syrian rebels take positions in Aleppo
Reuters

The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) declared on Tuesday that it will not take part in a planned Geneva II peace conference unless the objective is President Bashar Al-Assad’s removal from power, reports Al Arabiya.

“Geneva cannot succeed and we cannot take part if it allows Assad to gain more time to spill the blood of our people while the world looks on,” SNC head Ahmad al-Jarba said.

A final decision on the SNC’s participation will be made within 10 days, Jarba said, noting that there will be “no negotiations or reconciliation with the Syrian regime.”

Jarba said that the Assad’s regime is being supported by more than 60,000 fighters from Iran and that without the Iranian backing, Assad would’ve lost.

“Iranian fighters are wreaking havoc in Syria,” he said, according to Al Arabiya.

While Washington has said it is open to the possibility of Iran coming to a Geneva conference, Secretary of State John Kerry said it was hard to see Tehran playing a constructive role unless it backs the idea of a transitional government.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, meanwhile, said Iran must support a proposed interim government in Syria including figures from Assad's administration and the opposition as the way to political dialogue and free elections.

“If Iran could start from that position as well as the rest of us, then Iran would be more easily included in international discussions on the subject,” he said.

Both Kerry and Jarba were in London on Tuesday meeting with diplomats from 11 Western and Mideast nations who are trying to reach a settlement.

Hague said it was vital that the Western-backed Syrian opposition join the talks.

“We urge the National Coalition to commit itself fully and to lead and form the heart of any opposition delegation to Geneva,” he told a news conference.

The United States and Russia have been trying to organize the Geneva 2 conference, first announced last year, on the heels of a deal which Syria accepted to destroy its chemical arsenal by mid-2014.

On Sunday there were conflicting reports on whether a date had finally been set for the long-delayed conference.

Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby said that joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi informed him that the talks will convene on November 23. Brahimi, however, denied that any date has been set.

Last week the Syrian National Council, a key group within the SNC, said it would not attend proposed peace talks in Geneva and would quit the Coalition if it participated.

Assad has already declared that he was not ruling out the possibility of running for a third term in office.

In an interview on Monday, Assad also repeatedly accused the SNC of working under the orders of regional and Western backers.

"The solution (to Syria's war) must be a Syrian solution, regardless of whether foreign powers recognize it. It doesn't matter. What matters is that the Syrian people recognizes it," stated Assad.

"The issue is a Syrian issue... Whether the conference is held or not is not what matters most. The most important issue is, should the conference be held, will it succeed or not? That is the question. And up until now, the factors are not yet in place for it to succeed."