12:01 AM, January 20, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Syria opposition to join peace talks

Syria opposition to join peace talks

Islamists reject move; Assad remains defiant
Afp, Istanbul

Western leaders have hailed a decision by Syria's opposition to attend an international peace conference next week alongside representatives of a regime they despise and remain determined to overthrow.
After weeks of hesitation and threats to boycott the talks, the deeply divided National Coalition said it will go to Switzerland next week, with the sole aim of toppling President Bashar al-Assad.
However, Islamic Front, a powerful alliance of Syrian Islamist rebels rejected upcoming peace talks yesterday, meaning that even if the talks reach an unlikely breakthrough in the three year old civil war, it will be harder to implement it on the ground.
Assad's government, which brands rebels fighting his regime as "terrorists", made concessions ahead of the conference that opens on Wednesday but said the president will not step down.
And a defiant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday said he had no plans to stand down, stressing that only the Syrian people had the right to determine the country's future.
Nearly three-years' war estimated to have killed more than 130,00 people and forced millions from their homes in Syria.
US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the "courageous" decision by the National Coalition to attend the conference, describing it as a "path that will ultimately lead to a better future for all Syrians".
Britain, France and Germany were equally elated with the opposition's decision to overcome internal divisions and go to Switzerland. Russia also welcomed the move.
More than 35 countries will gather in the Swiss cities of Montreux and Geneva from Wednesday for the peace conference.


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