Syrian Gov't, Opposition to Join Geneva 2 Peace Talks
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The Syrian government along with the main Western-backed opposition coalition confirmed that both will attend the UN-sponsored peace conference, due to be in Geneva in January 2014.
The repeatedly delayed peace talks are scheduled for January 22 in Geneva and will bring together Syria’s President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition for the first time since the bloody conflict began in March of 2011.
Despite their confirmed participation, the two sides still see talks going into different directions. The opposition wants to see a transitional government to emerge, while Assad’s government has stated that it is not attending the conference to hand over power.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Assad will send an official delegation to the conference, highlighting that representatives “will be going to Geneva not to hand over power to anyone,” but to meet with those “who support a political solution for Syria's future,” AP quoted the statement as saying on Wednesday.
The Western-backed Syrian opposition coalition also said it will be attending. "We are now ready to go to Geneva," Reuters quoted Jarba as saying during a visit to Cairo, adding that the opposition sees the Geneva talks as a way towards a transitional government and a "genuine democratic transformation in Syria,” noting that Assad cannot be a part of that government.
"There is no way that the individual responsible for the destruction of the country can be responsible for building the country," said Jarba, referring to Assad.
The opposition group also made it clear earlier that it would need humanitarian corridors to surrounded rebel areas and the release of political prisoners.
The complete list of participants in the talks has not yet been agreed upon. The opposition is fighting against Iran’s attendance, arguing that it must stop taking part in the Syrian war if it wants to attend.
Negotiations were delayed in the past as attempts to bring both sides to the negotiating table failed. Key hurdles involved clarifying whether Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other regional powers should be attending the conference, and the issue of Assad remaining in power.
According to Syrian officials, Assad has no plans to give up power and is even planning to run in the upcoming elections in mid-2014.
The two-year conflict has already killed more than 100,000 people and displaced over one million refugees. According to the country’s officials Syria’s economy has lost an estimated US$100 billion during the war - the equivalent of two years of normal production.