1) Syrian Opposition in Istanbul to Discuss Participation in Peace Talks
The divided Syrian opposition factions are meeting in Istanbul to decide whether to join landmark peace talks due in Geneva on January 22.
On the eve of the National Coalition’s meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a plea to the exiled group to decide in favor of the talks.
“The Syrian people need to be able to determine the future of their country, their voice must be heard,” AFP quoted him as saying.
The Geneva-II peace conference is aimed at finding a way to end war in Syria.
Syria was hit by a violent unrest since mid-March 2011, where the Syrian government accuses foreign actors, mainly the Saudi Arabia and Turkey, of orchestrating the conflict by supporting the militant opposition groups with arms and money.
2) Moallem Says Syria to Exert Efforts to Ensure Geneva II - Lavrov Slams Opposition
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem expressed his country’s readiness to make ecery effort in order to ensure a planned international peace conference.
Meanwhile, his Russian counterpart slammed the foreign-backed opposition for failing to take decision on whether it will participate in Geneva II or not.
During a joint press conference, Moalle Lavrov and Moallemm confirmed his government’s plans to send a senior delegation to the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux where the long-delayed peace conference — the first since June 2012 — is due to begin.
Syria “will take part in Geneva II and make every effort to ensure this event is a success and meets the aspirations of the Syrian people and the direct orders of President Bashar al-Assad,” said Moallem.
He added that Assad will send his representatives to Switzerland “irrespective of the situation around the participation or the non-participation of the National Coalition at this conference.”
The Syrian FM also expressed his country’s readiness to swap prisoners with the insurgents.
“I informed Lavrov of our principled position in favor of an agreement to exchange those held in Syrian prisons for those taken by the other side.”
However, he did not how many prisoners such a swap would involve or when it might begin. But it would represent a concession to one of the opposition’s key demands before it agreed to peace talks.
“We are ready to exchange lists and develop the necessary mechanism for accomplishing these goals,” Moallem said in remarks translated from Arabic into Russian.
Meanwhile Moallem did not address the ceasefire call directly but said he had handed Lavrov “a plan concerning measures for ensuring security in Aleppo.”
For his part, FM Lavrov said Moallem had informed him of Assad’s readiness “to take a series of humanitarian steps” that would lead to the speedy delivery of assistance to those suffering from the 34-month civil war.
The Russian diplomat further criticized the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC) for delaying their decision for participation in the forthcoming Geneva II talks, saying the delay is “going beyond the limits of what is reasonable.”
Lavrov stressed that “the main reason [for the delay] is internal conflicts between various coalition groups , which are supported by various external sponsors, not a desire to be better prepared for the conference.”
“This concerns specific proposals that are already being implemented concerning the delivery of humanitarian supplies to settlements in the Eastern Ghuta region and other areas, including the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo,” Lavrov added.