Syrian opposition ‘willing’ to attend Geneva conference

Syrian opposition ‘willing’ to attend Geneva conference

Syrian opposition ‘willing’ to attend Geneva conference

Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba (L) says the opposition ‘reaffirms its willingness to engage in a future Geneva conference,’ despite previous objections. AFP photo

The president of the opposition Syrian Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, said the group was ready to attend a proposed Geneva conference to end two and a half years of conflict in Syria if it aims to establish a transitional government with full powers, according to Reuters.

It was the first clear commitment by the Western- and Arab-backed coalition to attend the proposed conference, sponsored by the United States and Russia. The coalition has been dithering on whether to attend, especially after a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, obtained by Reuters and dated Sept. 19, Jarba said the coalition “reaffirms its willingness to engage in a future Geneva Conference”.

But “all parties must ... agree that the purpose of the conference will be the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers”, as stipulated at the first round of international talks on Syria in Geneva last year.

Rebels and political opponents of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have also insisted that he play no role in a transitional authority. But the president has played down prospects that he might transfer any powers.

In the letter, Jarba called on the Security Council to make any resolution on a U.S.-Russian deal to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons subject to “Chapter 7” of the U.N. charter, which could authorise the use of force in case of non-compliance.

Jarba also called on the council to take the “necessary measures” to impose a ceasefire in the country and release thousands of peaceful activists.

The opposition and its Western and Arab allies say Assad is behind the chemical weapons attack which struck rebel areas of Damascus. Assad says the rebels themselves carried out the attack. 

Watchdog looks over chemical data

Meanwhile, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog poured over an inventory of Syria’s arsenal on the weekend ahead of an expected UN vote on how to secure and neutralize the lethal arms.

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Saturday that it had received a complete inventory from Syria and was scrutinizing the data.

Just hours later CNN quoted a senior US administration official as saying that US officials were surprised and encouraged by the volume of information provided by Damascus.

“The official said the declaration was more complete than what the officials had expected the Syrians to put forth,” CNN reported.

Syria had to meet the deadline yesterday to provide the OPCW with a full inventory of its chemical arsenal, in order to avert US-led military strikes in line with a US-Russian deal.

The plan calls for Syria’s arsenal to be destroyed by mid-2014 amid hopes that it could pave the way for peace talks to end the 30-month conflict which has killed more than 110,000 people and forced two million more to flee abroad. The deal was worked out after Washington threatened military action in Syria.