BEIRUT, January 18, 20:21 /ITAR-TASS/. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces will make the decision on its participation in the Geneva II international conference within the next couple of hours, Member of the Syrian National Council Ziad Abu Hamdan told Al Arabiya satellite television on Saturday, January 18.
He said 75 of 120 members of the National Coalition were attending its General Assembly held behind the closed doors on Istanbul’s outskirts, which indicates serious disagreements in its ranks.
The 39-member faction of the Syrian National Council controlled by Muslim Brotherhood is against going to Geneva II.
Abu Hamdan said the Istanbul coalition recognised by the West and Arabs as the mouthpiece for the Syrian people “cannot but attend the conferences in Montreux and Geneva”, being obliged by “responsibility to the international community.”
He declined to confirm reports alleging that National Coalition leader Ahmad al-Jarba will personally head the opposition delegation to the talks with the Syrian government.
Earlier this week, the National Coordination Committee (NCC), the major Syrian opposition group, refused to attend Geneva II.
The Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, had a telephone conversation with National Coordination Committee President Hassan Abdel-Azim after the Committee’s decision not to be part of the delegation of the Syrian Opposition to the Geneva II Conference and said he “deeply regrets that NCC will not be part of the delegation of the Opposition which will discuss in Geneva how the terrible war now raging in Syria must be brought to an end.”
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, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John 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.
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.