Istanbul (AFP) – Syria’s main opposition grouping has said it will attend peace talks on the condition that President Bashar al-Assad transfers power and is excluded from any transition process.
In a statement issued Monday after two days of meetings in Istanbul, the key National Coalition said it would take part in mooted peace talks in Geneva “on the basis of the full transfer of power.”
It also stipulated “that Bashar al-Assad and those with the blood of Syrians on their hands have no role in the transitional phase and Syria’s future.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said any decision by the opposition to take part in talks would be a “big step.”
“We take note of the fact that … the Syrian opposition voted to go to the Geneva II (conference). This is a big step forward and a significant one,” Kerry said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament MPs “I strongly welcome” the opposition’s readiness to attend the talks.
“We continue to push for a date for a peace conference to be agreed, and UN and Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has reiterated that he is still trying to convene a conference before the end of the year,” he said.
Syrian opposition figures have long said that Assad should have no role in any political transition process, insisting he must step down.
But the Syrian government, while expressing willingness to attend the proposed Geneva conference, insists that Assad’s departure from power is not up for discussion.
Monday’s statement, issued by the Coalition’s General Assembly, also calls for the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors and for the release of prisoners.
“The Coalition also requires that prior to the conference, aid convoys from the Red Cross and Red Crescent and other aid groups be granted continued access to besieged areas,” the statement said.