U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the opposition Syrian National Coalition could veto any names for an interim leadership in the planned Geneva II peace conference.
“On the eve of the Syrian opposition coalition general assembly meeting tomorrow to decide whether to participate in Geneva in the peace conference, the United States ... urges a positive vote,” Kerry in a statement broadcast by Al Arabiya News Channel.
“The Syrian people need to be able to determine the future of their country, their voice must be heard,” he said, ahead of the peace talks planned to start on Jan. 22.
“The Geneva peace conference is not the end, but rather the beginning. The launch of a process that is the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution,” Kerry added.
The aim of the U.N.-led talks is to find a way to install a transitional government to help end the war, in which 130,000 people have died since March 2011.
Kerry said the Syrian opposition had the power to veto names for the transitional governing body, as does the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Any names put forward for leadership of Syria’s transition... those names must be agreed to by both the opposition and the regime. That is the very definition of mutual consent,” Kerry said.
“This means that any figure that is deemed unacceptable by either side, whether President Assad or a member of the opposition cannot be a part of the future,” he added.
The Syrian government sent a letter to the United Nations on Thursday confirming attendance of the Geneva talks.
“I can confirm the receipt of a letter from Syrian government on participation in Geneva conference for Syria, but I will not comment on the language of our exchange with Syria government,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told Al Arabiya.”
“We expect them to make positions clear at the talks. We want both parties to come to talks prepared to negotiate seriously on the terms of the Geneva communiqué that we have been trying to make operational over 1.5 years, including the idea of a transitional governing with authority and with executive powers,” Haq said.
Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United Nations, said: “What we need is to have two representative delegations able to make compromises and take decisions. On the eve of meetings you can be sure the two sides will reaffirm their positions: One; Assad is the only legitimate president for next 50 years and the other one; Assad has to retire somewhere and soon.”