Syrian opposition agrees to peace talks, with conditions

Nov. 11, 2013 at 1:30 AM
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ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Western-backed Syrian political opposition leaders said Monday they planned to join international peace talks, if the Assad regime meets specific conditions.

The conditions include a guarantee relief agencies can reach besieged areas, an assurance women and children held as political prisoners will be released from Syrian jails and an insistence there must be a political transition without the Assad regime, the Syrian National Council said in Istanbul, Turkey, early Monday after the second day of open-ended meetings.

"[Syrian President] Bashar Assad will have no role in the transitional period and the future of Syria," the council said in a statement.

"Those who are responsible for the catastrophe in Syria cannot be part of the political process," Abdulbaset Sieda, the former head of the council, told The Wall Street Journal late Sunday.

"Assad and his group must be out. That's our red line. Other people in the government and the state are not a problem for us," he said.

The Assad regime had no immediate comment.

Assad told Lebanese satellite TV network al-Mayadeen Oct. 21 he wanted to run for re-election next year. He also said no meaningful peace talks would take place with the opposition, which he said was made up of "mercenaries."

Washington and Moscow are trying to convene the talks in Geneva, Switzerland, by next month.

More than 115,000 people have been killed in the war, which started in March 2011, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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