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The long-delayed Syria peace talks due in January will take place without the presence of President Bashar al-Assad or radical opposition groups, France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Laurent Fabius made the comments a day after the United States and Russia threw their weight behind the dubbed Geneva II peace talks which the U.N. said would finally be held on Jan. 22.
“The purpose of Geneva-2 is not to have an armchair discussion about Syria, it’s to have mutual agreement between regime representatives – without Assad – and the moderate opposition in order to form a transitional government,” Laurent Fabius told French radio.
It’s very difficult, but it’s the only solution that allows us at once not to have Mr. Bashar al-Assad and not to have the terrorists,” he said, referring to the Jihadist members of Syria’s fractured opposition.
International Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said a list of participants has not yet been drawn up for the negotiations, which will bring the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiating table for the first time since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, reported Agence France-Presse.
Meanwhile, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday Iran was prepared to take part in Geneva II.
“Participation of Iran in Geneva II is in our view an important contribution to the resolution of the problem. We have said all along that if Iran is invited, we will participate without any preconditions,” Zarif said on Press TV.
The head of the Free Syrian Army said on Tuesday that rebel forces loyal to him would not join a planned peace conference and would continue their fight to topple Assad throughout the talks.
General Salim Idriss’s rejection highlights how challenging it will be for international mediators to get Syria’s warring parties to the negotiating table.
The Syrian government, in its first comment Monday, said it is ready to take part in a peace conference, while insisting it has a “constitutional duty” to protect the Syrian people from the “crimes of armed terrorist groups,” a reference to the rebels, reported the Associated Press.