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    Syria Opposition Conditionally Agrees to Geneva Talks

    FILE - Syrian National Coalition spokesman Khaled Saleh speaks during a news conference in Istanbul,September 3, 2013.
    FILE - Syrian National Coalition spokesman Khaled Saleh speaks during a news conference in Istanbul,September 3, 2013.
    VOA News
    Syria's main Western-backed opposition coalition has announced that it will take part in peace talks with the government if certain conditions are met, including allowing aid workers access to besieged areas.
     
    The Syrian National Coalition made public its decision in a statement released on Monday, after two days of talks in Istanbul.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the announcement, saying the group's participation would be a "big step forward."
     
    The group wants the government to guarantee the establishment of humanitarian corridors, the release of detainees and that the peace negotiations will result in a political transition in Syria.
     
    Opposition members have long demanded that President Bashar al-Assad have no part in the transitional government that the United States and Russia want the two sides to agree on at the Geneva peace talks.
     
    No date has been set for the proposed conference, which has been repeatedly delayed as U.S., Russian and U.N. diplomats struggle to get the two sides to agree to take part.
     
    Coalition members want the backing of rebel fighting units, community leaders and activists inside Syria to counter criticism that they are out of touch with those battling on the ground.
     
    Major Islamist rebel brigades have declared their opposition to the Geneva process if the conference does not result in Assad's removal.  Some have said they would charge anyone who attended the planned international talks with treason.

    • Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad walk near a damaged gas station near the main highway leading Aleppo to Raqqa, Nov. 11, 2013.
    • Smoke rises in Base 80 area of Aleppo, Nov. 10, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters sit on the back of a pick-up truck in the Mouazafeen neighbourhood in Deir al-Zor, Nov. 10, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters rest in a safehouse in the Mouazafeen neighbourhood in Deir al-Zor, Nov. 10, 2013.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center shows a Syrian rebel firing a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Nov. 9, 2013.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center shows a Free Syrian Army fighter firing an AK-47 during a battle against the Syrian army loyal to Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Nov. 8, 2013.
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