SNC to attend Geneva Two talks

January 19, 2014 - 2:55:00 am

A car burns amid damage caused by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad in the Al Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo yesterday. 

SILIVRI, Turkey: The main Syrian political opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Coalition, said it had agreed yesterday to attend internationally sponsored peace talks beginning in Switzerland next week.

The “Geneva 2” talks with representatives from President Bashar Al Assad’s government start in Montreux on Wednesday and are seen as the most serious international effort yet to end the near three-year conflict.

The splintered Coalition, based in Turkey, has little influence on the ground in Syria, where many rebels oppose the peace talks. Its military arm, the Supreme Military Council (SMC), has been eclipsed by Islamist rebels and 

Al Qaeda-linked fighters.

“It was a tough vote,” the head of the Coalition’s media office, Khaled Saleh, told Reuters. The Geneva 2 process would be a “political and media battle, and on balance we decided that we must fight it alongside the war on the ground,” he added.

It was not immediately clear whether the Coalition’s vote would be backed by a separate meeting, in Ankara, of Syrian rebel militias, who would be needed to implement any agreements made at peace talks.

Opposition sources said more than 40 members had withdrawn from the vote because they wanted to wait until fighter representatives arrived in Istanbul from Ankara, to weigh in on the decision.

Out of those that did take part, 58 Syrian National Coalition members voted to attend and 14 voted against, said the group’s media office. Another three abstained, it added.

The international community had pressed rebels to commit to the talks and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius welcomed the coalition’s acceptance yesterday.

“This brave choice despite the provocations and acts of violence by the regime, is a choice to search for a peaceful solution,” he said. REUTERS

 

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