Syrian rebels reject peace talks in Geneva
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Syrian rebels reject peace talks in Geneva

19 opposition groups call planned conference on November 23-24 an ‘act of treason’; Brahimi due in Damascus Monday

Screenshot from a video released Sunday, October 27, 2013 by 19 Syrian rebel groups stating their rejection of  peace talks planned in Geneva for November 23-24.
Screenshot from a video released Sunday, October 27, 2013 by 19 Syrian rebel groups stating their rejection of peace talks planned in Geneva for November 23-24.

Nineteen Syrian opposition groups rejected the upcoming Geneva II conference scheduled for November 23 and 24 to negotiate an end to the crisis, labeling any participation an “act of treason.”

“We consider participation in Geneva II and negotiating with the regime is trading the blood of martyrs and treason, and those will be held accountable in our courts,” the groups said in a video statement Sunday.

The rebel groups opposed to the peace talks are of Islamist and jihadist nature, the AFP news agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement Sunday that Syria completed its declaration as part of a strict and ambitious timeline that aims to eliminate the lethal stockpile by mid-2014.

The rebels’ statement came as UN and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi prepared to travel to Damascus on Monday as part of a regional tour to drum up support for the Geneva conference.

Brahimi was in Tehran on Saturday, as part the Mideast tour, where he said that Iran’s participation at the conference was essential.

“We believe that the participation of Iran in the Geneva conference is natural and necessary as well as fruitful, so we are hopeful that this invitation is made,” Brahimi told reporters during a news conference in Tehran on Saturday. His remarks were translated by Iran’s English-language channel Press TV.

Brahimi’s tour began in Cairo last week. Over the past week, he was also in Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq and Turkey.

The Geneva II conference on Syria is scheduled for November 23 and 24 and will attempt to get Syria’s rival sides to agree on a transitional government in that country based on a plan adopted in Geneva in June 2012.

The US and Russia have been trying to bring the Damascus government and Syria’s divided opposition to the negotiating table for months, but the meeting has been repeatedly delayed and it remains unclear whether either side is really willing to hold talks while the war is deadlocked.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, has said in the past that it will only negotiate if it is agreed from the start that President Bashar Assad will leave power at the end of a transition period. Many rebel fighters inside Syria flatly reject negotiating with Assad’s regime.

The government, meanwhile, has refused to talk with the armed opposition, which it refers to as “terrorists,” and has rejected demands that Assad leave power, saying he will stay at least until the end of his term in mid-2014, and will decide then whether to seek re-election.

The SNC is scheduled to meet November 9, according to AFP, to discuss the matter further.

Syria’s conflict, now into its third year, has left over 100,000 dead. It has devastated the economy and the country’s delicate social fabric. It has caused 5 million Syrians to flee their homes to other places within the country, and driven another 2 million abroad.

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