Syria Daily: Assad Delegation Refuses Direct Talks With Opposition

 By Scott Lucas January 24, 2014 07:32 Updated  — LATEST: State Media — There is No Opposition Group at Geneva II

President Assad’s delegation at the Geneva II conference has refused to enter direct talks with the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had hoped the discussions could begin on Friday afternoon, but both Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and senior Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban made clear on Thursday that there could be no exchange unless the opposition renounced “terrorism”.

Shaaban went farther and said the Coalition, led by Ahmed Jarba, only represented a small number of the Syrian people.

Brahimi will meet the two sides in the same room on Friday and explain how he plans to proceed; however, while al-Moallem and Jarba will address the UN envoy, they will not speak to each other.

The Coalition head insisted:

We have started to look into the future without [the President. Assad and all of his regime is in the past now. Nobody should have any doubt that the head of the regime is finished. This regime is dead.

Secretary of State John Kerry paralleled the comments, maintaining his tough line from Wednesday’s opening statements, “This is a man who has committed war crimes and still somehow wants to claim legitimacy to be able to govern the country.”

State Media: There is No Opposition Group at Geneva II

Syrian State news agency SANA has stopped referring to an “opposition” delegation at the Geneva II conference.

Instead, discussing attempts by the UN to bring the regime and opposition groups together for talks, SANA uses the term “the coalition delegation called ‘opposition’”:

Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Head of the Syrian official delegation to Geneva 2 conference met on Thursday the UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

Talks during the meeting, which was held at al-Moallem’s residence in Geneva, dealt with the procedural arrangements to launch dialogue with the coalition delegation called “opposition “at the UN headquarters in Geneva at 11 a.m on Friday.

The Minister of State for National Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, drives home the message:

Those who call themselves “opposition” have no real presence or representation on the ground and they are talking with the tongue of the US and the Gulf states to serve their interests.