Rebels clash with Syrian government forces
Rebels clash with Syrian government forcesAFP photo

The Syrian National Council, a key group within Syria’s mainstream opposition National Coalition, reaffirmed on Friday it will not attend the planned Geneva II peace talks, Al Arabiya reports.

“After meetings with many international delegations in recent weeks... the Syrian National Council (SNC) confirms it sees no reason to attend the Geneva conference,” SNC member Samir Nashar was quoted as having told the AFP news agency.

Although the National Coalition which has still not taken a definitive decision, Nashar predicted that the umbrella organization would similarly not show up.

The statement reiterates an earlier announcement by SNC president George Sabra in October that the group had taken a “firm decision” not to attend the talks. Sabra had also said the SNC would withdraw from the National Coalition if it decided to attend.

The group has long insisted that it refuses to negotiate until President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime exits power.

Nashar told AFP the decision was taken after many meetings, including with the “Friends of Syria” grouping of states that support the opposition, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and the Russian foreign ministry.

“The whole idea of Geneva is flawed. It is based on bridging the demands of the Syrian regime and the opposition, placing them on an equal footing. We reject this,” he declared.

“There is nothing the international community has to offer that would make us revise our earlier decision,” he added.

 “And the message we are getting is that whether Assad stays or goes will be up to the Syrians to decide. The United States supports our demand that he must fall but the Russians do not accept this as a precondition,” said Nashar.

The Syrian regime has repeatedly said it will not attend a the Geneva peace conference if the aim is for Assad to hand over power.

In fact, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister recently said that Assad would likely run for another term as president this year.