Syria opposition accepts peace talks, says Assad must go

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.

source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/11/us-syria-crisis-opposition-idUSBRE9A905720131111

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U.S., Russia fail to agree on Syria peace talks date

The United States and Russia failed on Tuesday to agree on a date for a Syrian peace conference, remaining divided over what role Iran might play in talks to end the civil war and over who would represent Syria’s opposition.

The proposed peace conference is meant to build on a June 2012 agreement among world powers in Geneva that called for a transitional authority with full executive powers, but did not explicitly say Assad should step down.

Damascus reiterated on Monday that Assad would stay in power come what may, casting doubt on the political transition that is the main focus of the proposed “Geneva 2” conference.

“Syria – the state, the nation and the people – will remain and … Assad will be president of this country all the time they are dreaming that he isn’t,” the Syrian state news agency quoted Information Minister Omran Zoabi as saying on Monday.

Russia said Iran, Assad’s main sponsor, must be invited to any peace talks, after the main Syrian political opposition leader said his coalition would not attend if Tehran took part.

The U.S. official said Washington recognized Iran was going to play a role in the region and wanted to ensure it was not a negative one. “But … the United States believes everybody who comes to the Geneva conference should subscribe to the Geneva communique, have made that commitment before they come. Iran has not chosen to do that.”

Saudi Arabia and the United States oppose any invitation for Iran.

Mohammad Javad Zarif told France 24. “We are prepared for everybody with influence to push for (the) withdrawal of all non-Syrians from the Syrian soil.

source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/05/us-syria-crisis-talks-idUSBRE9A40G920131105

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/iran-syria-withdrawal_n_4219977.html