Syria's opposition split over peace talks after Iran excluded

Syria's opposition split over peace talks after Iran excluded

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Syrias opposition split over peace talks after Iran excluded

The president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC), Ahmad al-Jarba, attends a press conference at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris on Jan 12. AFP photo

Syria's main opposition group confirmed late Jan. 20 it would take part in peace talks this week after the United Nations withdrew an invitation for Iran - the main ally to Damascus.

But the biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Council (SNC), said late Jan. 20 it was quitting the umbrella Syrian National Coalition in protest over the Geneva II peace talks with the government in Damascus .

The SNC said taking part in the talks would renege on its "commitments" to not enter negotiations until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad left power - something he refuses to do.

Earlier the larger Syrian National Coalition said in a statement that it "welcomed the decision of the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon to withdraw the invitation sent to Iran, given that Iran has not met the conditions of participation in Geneva II conference."

It said it therefore "confirms its participation" in the talks which it said aimed to achieve "a political transition." The opposition group's steadfast stance is that al-Assad must quit power.

Ban had abruptly excluded Iran from this week's Syria peace conference in Switzerland after it refused to back calls for a transitional government to end the country's war.

Ban withdrew the surprise invitation less than 24 hours after it had been made, bidding to save the talks which start in the Swiss town of Montreux on Jan. 22.

The U.N. secretary general was forced to act after both the Syrian opposition and the United States demanded the invitation be withdrawn if Iran did not support a Syria declaration adopted by major world powers in Geneva in 2012.