Syria: SNC ‘ready’ for Arab League seat

The Arab League granted the seat to the Coalition at a ceremony in March but postponed its full participation until a provisional government was formed

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The opposition Syrian National Coalition will take the full possession of the country’s seat on the Arab League now that it has formed a provisional government, its chief said Tuesday in Cairo.

The 22-member League suspended President Bashar al-Assad’s government in 2011 after its crackdown on a pro-democracy movement which has sparked the two-and-a-half years violent uprising.

The Arab League granted the seat to the Coalition at a ceremony in March but postponed its full participation until a provisional government was formed.

Its chief Ahmed Jarba said he would be making a formal speech in the coming days to coincide with the Coalition becoming fully active in the body, Agence France-Presse reported.

Jarba, speaking with Arab League chief Nabil al-Araby, also said the Coalition had not made a final decision yet on whether it would participate in a peace conference to be held in Geneva, adding that the international community must “prove its seriousness” by forcing Damascus to agree on trust-building measures, the Associated Press reported.

“We did not make a final decision yet on our participation in the Geneva conference,” he was quoted as saying by AP.

He said his group has indicated its desire to go, “but we think that the Syrian regime is the one which doesn’t want to go to Geneva 2 but the Russians are putting pressure on them to attend.”

He also reiterated the Coalition’s conditions that it will attend only if Assad has no role in any political transition, that those people who have been jailed for their part in the uprising be freed and that humanitarian corridors be opened to areas under government siege.

Jarba said his group will hold a meeting sometime next month to discuss strategy ahead of a peace conference scheduled for January 22 in Geneva.

When asked whether Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, should be present in Geneva, he accused the Islamic republic of “occupying Syria,” and also called for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah to withdraw their fighters from Syria. He also accused them of “impairing opportunities for reform and political advances.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the government and opposition to help the Jan. 22 conference to be held in Geneva succeed by taking steps to stop the violence, provide access for desperately needed humanitarian aid, release detainees, and help hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people return to their homes.

“We go with a clear understanding: The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria,” he told reporters at the U.N. headquarters.

(With the Associated Press and AFP)

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