Syria’s Western-backed opposition agreed on Monday to attend planned peace talks in Geneva but said President Bashar al-Assad could play no part in a transitional government aimed at ending the 2-1/2-year-old civil war.
The Syrian National Coalition also demanded the release of women and children from Syrian jails and an easing of military sieges of rebel-held areas as a precondition for going to Geneva.
The coalition statement said the Geneva talks should be based an international accord agreed in the Swiss city on June 30, 2012, which endorsed the idea of a transitional government.
Assad himself, after months of steady gains on the battlefield, has given no suggestion that he is ready to step down and his ministers have repeatedly said that the government would not show up in Geneva simply to surrender power.
He has also refused to talk to rebels viewed by Damascus as terrorists and said no one who backs foreign political or military intervention in Syria can sit at the negotiating table.