The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, announced Saturday that it will attend the January 22 Geneva II peace talks.
The SNC voted to attend the talks after meeting in Istanbul on Saturday. 58 of the 75 delegates voted in favor of attending.
Results of Saturday's vote were tweeted by the SNC.
Vote passed. We're going to Geneva.— Syrian Coalition (@SyrCoalition) January 18, 2014
Opposition members had been hesitant to accept an invitation to participate in the Geneva II peace talks without assurance that a transitional government would exclude President Assad. Prior to Saturday's vote, SNC Media Office head Khalid Saleh stated “Assad must realize that Geneva II should not be a waste of time at the expense of the blood of the Syrian people. The goal of the conference is undoubtedly the formation of a transitional governing body with full powers and free of Assad and his close associates.”
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the objectives of the upcoming Geneva II peace talks.
"It is about establishing a process essential to the formation of a transition government body – governing body with full executive powers established by mutual consent. That process – it is the only way to bring about an end to the civil war that has triggered one of the planet’s most severe humanitarian disasters and which has created the seeding grounds for extremism.
"The Syrian people need to be able to determine the future of their country. Their voice must be heard. And any names put forward for leadership of Syria’s transition must, according to the terms of Geneva I and every one of the reiterations of that being the heart and soul of Geneva II, those names must be agreed to by both the opposition and the regime. That is the very definition of mutual consent.
"... attendance by both sides and the parties can come only with their acceptance of the goals of the conference. ... the Geneva peace conference is not the end but rather the beginning, the launch of a process, a process that is the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution, and a political solution to this terrible conflict that has taken many, many, many, too many lives."
The Geneva II peace talks are scheduled to commence January 22 in Montreux, Switzerland. [BBC] [Syrian National Coalition] [State Department]