World Bulletin/News Desk
The Syrian National Coalition opposition group will attend the "Geneva 2" talks in January aimed at ending the civil war, the group's president, Ahmad Jarba, said on Wednesday.
In an interview with Reuters and the Associated Press, he also said regional power Iran should only be allowed to attend if it stopped taking part in the bloodshed in Syria and withdrew its forces and proxies.
The Coalition had previously said it was ready to attend if humanitarian aid corridors were set up and political prisoners released. It insists that President Bashar al-Assad can play no future role in Syria.
"We are now ready to go to Geneva," said Jarba on a visit to Cairo, adding that the opposition views the Geneva talks as a step to a leadership transition and a "genuine democratic transformation in Syria".
"There is no way that the individual responsible for the destruction of the country can be responsible for building the country," said Jarba, referring to Assad.
Syria said on Wednesday that Western countries which also demand that Assad step down should either stop "dreaming" or forget attending the peace talks.
Jarba rejected the idea of Iran attending "under the current reality".
"Iran is responsible for and takes part in the killing in Syria in a very clear way. It killed thousands of Syrians with its Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries from Hizbollah, which is considered a terrorist group," he said.
"If Iran is serious about resolving the Syrian crisis, it must first withdraw its Revolutionary Guards and (Lebanese) Hizbollah mercenaries."
Iran is the main backer, along with Russia, of Assad during a conflict that has lasted more than two years, killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted millions more. Tehran has said it would attend Geneva 2 if invited and on Wednesday called for a ceasefire ahead of the talks scheduled for Jan. 22.
Syrian peace talks planned for January must put in place a timeframe for a transitional government and should not involve any opposition group other than the National Coalition, Gulf Arab foreign ministers said.
In a statement issued on Wednesday after they met in Kuwait, foreign ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council members also said they hoped Iran's preliminary deal with world powers would lead to a comprehensive solution to its nuclear crisis.
"The ministers affirmed the importance of strengthening international support for the Syrian opposition represented by the National Coalition, for participation in the Geneva 2 conference," said the statement.
It added that the conference should lead to "an agreement to put in place a limited timeframe to form a Syrian transitional government with full executive powers, in accordance with the statement of Geneva 1 on Jan. 30 2012".
The statement also reiterated the Gulf states' position that the National Coalition was the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people and that the Geneva talks should not go ahead with any other opposition groups.
The GCC is made up of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the main backers of the Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army, which they have aided with weapons, training, money and military intelligence in the fight against Assad's government.
The Gulf Arab foreign ministers said they hoped the agreement would be a first step leading to "a comprehensive resolution" of Iran's atomic dispute, but that this would need goodwill.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said he would visit Kuwait and Oman next week, Kuwait's state news agency reported late on Wednesday, citing comments he made in a press conference in Tehran.
United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, will visit Tehran on Thursday, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday. Sheikh Abdullah last visited Iran in 2011.
Zarif added he also planned to visit Saudi Arabia but had not yet set a date. On Tuesday, Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said he wanted better relations with Saudi Arabia in an interview with the Financial Times.
Last Mod: 29 Kasım 2013, 15:10