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Syrian opposition’s refusal to attend Geneva II would be big mistake - diplomat

January 20, 2014, 20:48 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS

The UN was holding urgent consultations on the participation of Iran and the Syrian opposition in Geneva II - Ban Ki-moon

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Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin

Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin

© EPA/ITAR-TASS/Andrew Gombert

UNITED NATIONS, January 20. /ITAR-TASS/. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces will make a big mistake if it decides against attending the Geneva II international conference, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said on Monday, January 20.

“It would be a big mistake,” he said

Earlier in the day, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces urged the United Nations to cancel its invitation to Iran to attend the Geneva II international conference scheduled to start this week.

The Coalition said it might refuse to attend the conference if the UN did not revoke the invitation.

“The invitation must be cancelled by 19:00 GMT,” Anas al-Abda, a member of the Political Committee of the Syrian National Coalition, said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera television, he stressed the need for Iran to recognize the results of Geneva II and withdraw its troops from Syria before accepting the invitation (to the second conference).

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian confirmed he had received an invitation from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to attend Geneva II to begin in Montreux, Switzerland, on January 22.

“Iran will attend the conference without preconditions,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marzieh Afkham said.

Churkin said the decision to invite Iran to Geneva II had been coordinated with all countries, including Russia and the United States. “We insisted for a long time that they [Iranians] be invited,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN was holding urgent consultations on the participation of Iran and the Syrian opposition in Geneva II.

“You will be aware of the latest developments concerning the Geneva Conference on Syria. Intensive and urgent discussions are under way, and I will have more to say about the situation later in the day. For the moment, let me just appeal again for all involved to keep the needs of the Syrian people foremost in mind,” Ban said, speaking at the UN Security Council.

The goal of Geneva II would be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communique, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on June 30, 2012.

The international conference on Syria known as Geneva II will begin with the signing of a declaration laying out the principles of conflict resolution in Syria.

The pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat has reported that the document will be signed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Ahmad al-Jarba, the leader of the opposition National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

The declaration will state the parties’ agreement to form an interim government in compliance with the Geneva accords of June 30, 2012.

This will mark the end of the international part of the conference to begin in Montreux on January 22, 2014, with the expected participation of some 30 countries. The delegations of the Syrian government and opposition will then move to the Palais des Nations in Geneva for a closed-door discussion to be mediated by Brahimi and UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

The Syrian delegation will include Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, his Deputy Faisal Mekdad and presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban.

Less than 48 hours before the beginning of the Geneva II international conference on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, scheduled for January 22, the line-up of the Syrian opposition delegation remains unknown.

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