Middle East

Syria peace talks to take place without Assad: France

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks to journalists in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, Nov.24, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone,Martial Trezzini)

PARIS: Long-delayed Syria peace talks due in January will take place without the presence of President Bashar Assad or radical opposition groups, France's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

"The purpose of Geneva-2 is not to have an armchair discussion about Syria, it's to have mutual agreement between regime representatives -- without Assad -- and the moderate opposition in order to form a transitional government," Laurent Fabius told French radio.

"It's very difficult, but it's the only solution that allows us at once not to have Mr Bashar al-Assad and not to have the terrorists," he said, referring to the jihadist members of Syria's fractured opposition.

Fabius spoke a day after the United States and Russia threw their weight behind the long-delayed Syria peace talks, dubbed Geneva-2, which the UN said would finally be held on January 22.

International Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said a list of participants has not yet been drawn up for the negotiations, which will bring the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiating table for the first time since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011.

The government crackdown on what started out as peaceful protests led to a spiral of violence and full-out civil war that has killed more than 120,000 people, according to activists, and displaced several million people.

The conflict has sucked in regional powers and exacerbated festering sectarian hostilities within the Islamic world, with Sunni Saudi Arabia supporting the rebels and Shiite Iran backing Assad's regime.





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