BEIRUT, January 13, 21:41 /ITAR-TASS/. The Syrian crisis can be resolved through dialogue between Syrians, the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, January 13.
It warned that the international conference on Syria known as Geneva II could be upset by attempts to put forth unacceptable conditions for participation in it as fait accompli.
On Sunday, January 12, Ahmad al-Jarba, the leader of the opposition National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said at a press conference that the participants in a meeting of the Friends of Syria Group in Paris had agreed that “there is no room for President Bashar al-Assad and members of his family in future Syria.”
“Assad’s departure is inevitable,” he said.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said, however, that preconditions “may upset Geneva II.”
“Syria does not pay attention to hollow statements made by those who have estranged themselves from reality and have no political weight. These statements made on behalf of the Syrian people by Arabs or West European look more like illusions removed from truth or like desperate attempts to make up for the losses sustained by bandits on the frontline,” the ministry said.
It stressed that “only Syrians themselves can decide their fate and the form of government and elect the future leadership of the country.”
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, U.N. 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 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 U.N. 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.
The composition of the Syrian opposition’s delegation is still unknown. The National Coalition is beset with disagreements.
On January 7, media reports said that the National Coalition would consider the question of its participation in Geneva II on January 17. Over the past several days, six blocs and several independent members have left the National Coalition, which minimises the chances of having a single delegation at the conference.
The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to the Geneva conference. Its leader Mohamamd Riad al-Shaqfeh said the conference was stillborn and would produce no result.
“[Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad can have no role in the future of Syria. There can be no presidential elections with his participation. Even if the National Coalition makes a political deal with the regime, the Syrian people will reject it. The coalition cannot act without the support of rebels and revolutionaries,” said al-Shaqfeh, who took part in the anti-government riot in Hama in 1982.
The United Nations urged the Syrian opposition to name the line-up of its delegation to Geneva II as soon as possible so as to have enough time to prepare the forum.
A spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General said on January 8 that the numerous meetings between different opposition groups held lately had indicated growing disagreements between them.
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 communique lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among others, it calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.
At their talks in Moscow on May 7, Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry agreed to hold an international conference on the basis of the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, in order to try to overcome the crisis in Syria.
Lavrov and Kerry said that their countries would encourage both the Syrian government and opposition groups to look for a political solution.
There are 32 countries invited to the conference, but that number may increase because everyone wants to come, the newspaper Daily Star quoted an unnamed Arab diplomat as saying. “In addition to the five permanent members of the Security Council [the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China], there are the neighbouring countries, as well as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and also Germany and Italy and others.”
“Each delegation will be composed of nine members and both the regime and the opposition should present their lists to the U.N. by December 27, but it is not certain they will respect this date,” the Arab diplomat said.
The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Geneva, will now be held in two parts, with the opening session in Montreux, and, after a day’s break, moving on 24 January to the world body’s headquarters in Geneva. The conference will bring the Syrian government and the opposition to a negotiating table for the first time since the conflict started in March 2011.
The talks would not be open-ended, and a time frame would be set once the negotiations started, Khawla Mattar, spokeswoman for Brahimi, who is organising the conference, said.