September 22, 2013 / 8:40 AM / 6 years ago

Syrian opposition says willing to attend Geneva talks

Ahmad Jarba, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, speaks to journalists in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

AMMAN (Reuters) - The president of the opposition Syrian Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, said the group was ready to attend a proposed Geneva conference to end two and a half years of conflict in Syria if it aims to establish a transitional government with full powers.

It was the first clear commitment by the Western- and Arab-backed coalition to attend the proposed conference, sponsored by the United States and Russia. The coalition has been dithering on whether to attend, especially after a chemical weapons attack on August 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, obtained by Reuters and dated September 19, Jarba said the coalition “reaffirms its willingness to engage in a future Geneva Conference”.

But “all parties must ... agree that the purpose of the conference will be the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers”, as stipulated at the first round of international talks on Syria in Geneva last year.

Rebels and political opponents of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have also insisted that he play no role in a transitional authority. But the president has played down prospects that he might transfer any powers.

In the letter, Jarba called on the security council to make any resolution on a U.S.-Russian deal to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons subject to “Chapter 7” of the U.N. charter, which could authorise the use of force in case of non-compliance.

Jarba also called on the council to take the “necessary measures” to impose a ceasefire in the country and release thousands of peaceful activists.

The opposition and its Western and Arab allies say Assad is behind the chemical weapons attack which struck rebel areas of Damascus. Assad says the rebels themselves carried out the attack.

Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Louise Ireland

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