Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Syrian opposition to attend peace talks in Geneva

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Syria's opposition coalition voted Saturday to attend peace talks with representatives of President Bashar Assad's regime in Geneva this week, setting the stage for what world leaders hope will be the first direct talks between the Syrian government and its opponents since conflict erupted nearly three years ago.

The decision was apparently eased by a surprise message of support from commanders of some of the biggest rebel groups fighting on the ground, who had been summoned by their international sponsors to a parallel meeting in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

Syrian Opposition Coalition members and rebel officials said the groups included the Islamic Front, the new alliance of Islamist factions that forms the biggest fighting force in Syria. An Islamic Front spokesman declined to confirm or deny that it had endorsed the process, and the alliance's top commanders are known to bitterly oppose the peace talks, leaving it unclear exactly who was behind the message.

But the arrival of the message at the secret location outside Istanbul where the coalition members were meeting helped them overcome their misgivings and take a decision on the controversial issue, said Abdulrahman Haj, one of those who participated in the vote.

"It's a very big deal," he said. "It means we are going to Geneva stronger than we would have been."

The vote culminated months of internal wrangling that risked shattering the already fractured coalition, which is widely regarded as having failed to present a credible alternative to Assad's government since it was formed more than a year ago.

Some 45 coalition figures boycotted the vote, in a sign of the emotions stirred by the prospect of talking peace with Syria's government, which the opposition blames for the past three years of bloodshed. Of the 75 members who took part, 58 voted yes, 14 no and 3 abstained, the coalition said, leaving the 125-member body almost evenly divided.

Coalition president Ahmad al-Jarba sought to reassure Syrians who fear that attending the talks equates to capitulation, saying the purpose was to press for Assad's departure, not to negotiate a settlement.

Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the vote as "courageous" and pledged to continue to support the Syrian opposition.

Syrian opposition to attend peace talks in Geneva 01/18/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 11:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]