Syrian opposition to name delegation for talks

Syrian opposition to name delegation for talks

Meeting in Turkey aims to select team for Wednesday peace conference in Switzerland

Syrian National Coalition Chief Ahmad al-Jarba speaks during a press conference at the foreign ministry in Paris,  January 12, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Michel Euler)
Syrian National Coalition Chief Ahmad al-Jarba speaks during a press conference at the foreign ministry in Paris, January 12, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Michel Euler)

BEIRUT — Syria’s Western-backed main opposition group’s leadership will meet Sunday in Turkey to name members of a delegation heading to a peace conference this week, a senior member of the Syrian National Coalition said.

Ahmad Ramadan said the Istanbul meeting will decide who will negotiate with the Syrian government delegation in the peace talks scheduled to open Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux.

Ramadan’s comments came a day after the Syrian National Coalition voted in favor of attending the conference, paving the way for the first direct talks between the rival sides in the nearly three-year conflict.

The aim of the conference, dubbed Geneva 2, is to agree on a roadmap for Syria based on one adopted by the US, Russia and other major powers in June 2012. That plan includes the creation of a transitional government and eventual elections.

The US and Russia have been trying to hold the peace conference since last year and it has been repeatedly delayed. Both sides finally agreed to sit together at the negotiations table after dropping some of their conditions.

The Coalition was under huge pressure from its Western and Arab sponsors to attend the peace talks and their decision to go was widely welcomed by the US, Britain and Russia.

Ramadan said the 15-member delegation will include two representatives of the country’s ethnic Kurdish minority, two for the rebels and two for opposition groups based in Syria.

Mustafa Osso, a member of the National Kurdish Council, said they might have two people selected to represent them.

The opposition does not want President Bashar Assad to have any role during the transitional period. Syrian government officials say Assad will not hand over power and has the right to run for president again later this year.

“All the powers of the president and prime minister should be put under the control of the transitional government,” Ramadan said.

Meanwhile Sunday, dozens of people, including some in need of medical treatment, left the besieged rebel-held Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria’s capital, said a member of Palestinian Struggle Front who goes with the name Abu Jamal. The move came a day after some 200 food parcels were sent into the Yarmouk camp.

Yarmouk is one of the areas hardest hit by food shortages in Syria. Residents there say 46 people have died since October of starvation, illnesses exacerbated by hunger or because they couldn’t obtain medical aid.

Footage aired by Lebanon’s private Al-Mayadeen television station showed mostly women and children leaving the camp in ambulances.

An elderly woman, who said she suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and an ulcer, told the station “we were suffering from hunger, cold and darkness.”

“May God help the residents of the camp,” the woman said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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