Assad ready for peace talks, discording opposition sets preconditions
Syria’s ruling regime says it will attend Geneva talks with “good intention” to end the war and with no preconditions. At the same time, discord between Syrian opposition elements is growing, threatening potential talks in June.
Should the Geneva peace conference take place, the Syrian government will be represented by the Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem. Speaking from Damascus to Beirut-based TV, he said his government is yet to decide on the makeup of its delegation for talks.
"We will go with good intentions, with hopes that we reach a (deal) ... we will go to Geneva with no preconditions," Reuters reported citing the Minister.
While the regime expresses firmness, Syria's opposition coalition said it will only take part in a planned peace conference if a deadline was set for an internationally-guaranteed settlement based on President Bashar Assad leaving power.
However, despite the looming event, it still remains unclear if the opposition will participate, and if it is going to be in Geneva, who will represent it.
While Russia and the US are joining efforts to arrange a peace conference, a sharp division in the Syrian opposition elements has become evident.
The Revolutionary Movement in Syria, the umbrella organization of activists on the ground, claims exiled members of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SC) are unable to fulfill their obligations due to "ongoing discord".
"There is no doubt that the Syrian Coalition's leadership has failed to fulfill its responsibility to represent the great Syrian people's revolution at the organizational, political and humanitarian level," the statement read.
The criticism comes as the Syrian National Coalition is meeting in Istanbul to discuss expansion of its decision-making bodies, choose a new leader and devise a joint position on the Geneva talks.
In its “final warning” to the exiled coalition leaders, four leading rebel groups inside Syria have slammed them for undermining the rebellion and lacking legitimacy.
The Movement members said they could not "bestow legitimacy upon any political body that subverts the revolution".
"There is a daunting realization that the opposition has to get its act together before Geneva, otherwise the Assad team will run rings around us," Reuters quoted a senior opposition coalition source at the talks in Istanbul as saying.
But at the meeting in Turkey, members of the National Coalition failed to agree on who should represent them at the conference.
The Revolutionary Movement has called for at least half the Coalition's leadership bodies to be made up of "revolutionary forces". It dismissed the meeting in Istanbul as a "feeble attempt to add persons ... that have no real impact on the revolution".
The opposition in Syria said the failure of the coalition has opened the door to "blatant interference" by outside powers.
Coalition insiders say that if a deal is not struck, the liberal wing will not participate in peace talks, thus, further undermining the ability of the coalition to represent the opposition, Reuters reports.
For now the Geneva conference is seen by international powers as the only option that can yield success in resolving the more than two-year long conflict in Syria.
Russia, however, suspects there are nations apparently trying to undermine the effort to call the meeting by accepting the UN Human Rights Council resolution. The document sponsored by Qatar, Turkey and the US condemns the Syrian government for the alleged use of mercenaries against rebel forces.
The disagreement between Russia and Western powers has also reappeared following the EU’s decision on an arms embargo in Syria and Russia’s commitment to ship S-300 air defense systems to Syria.