SNC backs out of planned Geneva peace talks

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Al-Akhbar Management

President of the Syrian National Council (SNC) George Sabra, center, talks with other Syrian opposition members during a break at the Syrian opposition meeting in Istanbul, on 25 May 2013. (Photo: AFP - Ozan Kose)

Published Thursday, May 30, 2013

Syria's main Western-backed opposition group said Thursday that it will not participate in US-Russian sponsored peace talks with the Syrian government.

Thursday's announcement came at the end of week-long opposition talks in Istanbul to try and forge a united view on whether to take part in the peace conference expected to take place in Geneva next month.

A spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, Khalid Saleh, says an "international conference on a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place."

The SNC also justified its decision by accusing Iran and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah of “invading” Syria.

"The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria," the opposition acting chief George Sabra told reporters in Istanbul.

The SNC has been under pressure from its international backers to enter talks with President Bashar al-Assad, but felt conflicted over the risk of losing what little legitimacy it has left with fighters on the ground if it complied.

The SNC's announcement comes just as Syria's rebels demanded to be granted half the seats in the SNC, warning that without strong representation of fighters on the ground the group would have no legitimacy.

"We have learned that there have been compromises to expand the coalition which include bringing in a number of politicians, and a similar number from the rebel forces operating on the ground," a statement issued in the name of the Western-backed rebel military council said Thursday.

Rebel forces had "requested 50 percent rebel and military representation," it said. "The legitimacy of the coalition will only be granted from inside (Syria), and circumventing this rebel representation will mean legitimacy is withdrawn."

The statement followed a deal struck in Istanbul to admit a liberal bloc of opposition activists into the coalition to dilute the dominance of Islamists in the organization.

Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad spoke to television station al-Manar in a interview released Thursday in advance exclusively to al-Akhbar, claiming that the Syrian army had already received a shipment of S-300 missiles from Syria.

(AP, Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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