Syria opposition hails talks, rejects future role for Assad

AFP , Tuesday 26 Nov 2013

Syria's main opposition National Coalition on Tuesday insisted that President Bashar al-Assad should play no role in the country's political future, while hailing the fixing of a date for peace talks.

The Coalition in a statement said it "affirms its absolute rejection of Assad or any of the criminals responsible for killing the Syrian people playing any role in a transitional body... or in Syria's political future."

The statement came a day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that peace talks, dubbed Geneva II, would be held on January 22, after several delays.

The Coalition said it considers the fact a date has been set as "very positive".

But it also said that in preparing for Geneva II the international community must "ensure humanitarian supplies reach all areas of Syria, while all prisoners must be set free".

And it called for "an immediate end" to massacres in Syria.

The Geneva II talks, the statement added, must "implement all the provisions of Geneva I", which in June 2012 envisaged the creation a transitional government for Syria, but did not stipulate that Assad should step down.

The Geneva II conference is a US-Russian initiative, and if it goes ahead it will bring rebel and regime representatives to the negotiating table.

Syria's opposition has frequently demanded guarantees that Assad will not be involved in any transitional phase in Syria.

The regime has for its part stipulated that there should be no preconditions for talks, while Assad himself has said he might be willing to run for re-election in 2014.

The foreign-based Coalition has been weakened due to a lack of credibility on the ground.

Several Islamist battalions fighting Assad's troops had in September warned against any negotiation with the regime, and said anyone who did go to such talks would be branded a traitor.

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