Syria names ‘A Team’ for Geneva conference

Syria names ‘A Team’ for Geneva conference

Syria names ‘A Team’ for Geneva conference

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi. AFP Photo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has put forward names of five officials from his administration for internationally-sponsored peace talks with the Syrian opposition, European Union diplomatic sources said today.

The list includes Prime Minister Wael al-Halki and more junior officials. According to a second EU diplomat, Syria’s opposition has already rejected some of the officials on the list because of their lack of influence.

The EU sources said al-Assad in early March circulated a list of names for possible talks, including al-Halki, Vice Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, Information Minister Omran Zoabi, National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar and Joseph Sweid, the minister charged with overseeing Red Crescent Affairs.

The source said al-Assad had since confirmed to Russia that these were the officials he wanted to send to negotiations which Moscow and Washington are trying to organize to end the conflict.

Opposition from SNC

“The list is likely to change,” the first diplomat said, adding that any official sent to the meeting had to have sufficient weight to properly negotiate. The second diplomat said Syria’s National Coalition (SNC) had already deemed some of the names unacceptable, without saying which. Both diplomats are closely involved in the planning and consultations for the peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to discuss current planning for the talks at a meeting in Jordan today of the “Friends of Syria” club of countries seeking al-Assad’s downfall.

Syria’s opposition will then meet tomorrow in Istanbul to announce its stance. The Arab League’s Syria committee will also meet tomorrow in Cairo at the request of Qatar, possibly to endorse the opposition’s decision. The United Nations-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi also said both sides are preparing to take part in the conference.

“The Syrian people are building great hopes on the conference, as the opposition prepares itself to take part and likewise the Syrian regime prepares to take part in this conference,” he told reporters at the Arab League.