ISTANBUL, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Syria's main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), announced here it would attend the Geneva II peace conference after holding a secret vote on its participation on Saturday.
SNC said that 58 out of the 75 members voted in favor of the bloc's presence at the peace talks, 14 voted against it, two abstained and one cast a blank ballot.
"This was the toughest decision. The absolute majority voted in favor of going to Geneva and being part of the sides on the negotiating table," SNC spokesman Louay Safi said at a press conference at a hotel about 90 km west of the Turkish coastal city of Istanbul.
He said that three rebel groups fighting inside Syria, Ajnad Al- Sham, the army of Al-Mujahedeen, and the front of Syria's revolutionaries, agreed to go to the Geneva II conference and gave their full support to the Syrian opposition.
"We are very glad to hear about their support. They will definitely be part of the negotiations and they all appreciate a political solution," Safi said.
SNC President Ahmad Al-Jarba said at the press conference: " Today we enter another phase of the revolution. We are at the crossroad. At one side there are those who carry the Syrian flag, on the other side there are those who kill the innocent people."
Jarba said the coalition decided to go to Geneva to achieve the demands of the Syrian people. "We go to Geneva very comfortably because the Syrian people support us. We want our voices to be heard," he said.
In November, the Istanbul-based SNC said that it would attend the peace talks if a number of conditions were met, including the government's releasing political prisoners and allowing relief access to the besieged areas. It also said that it would not take part in the talks unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed to stay out of a future transitional government. However, these conditions have not been met.
The UN-backed peace conference, slated to open on Jan. 22 in Switzerland, will bring together representatives from both the government and the Western-backed political opposition for the first time since their conflict began almost three years ago.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the landmark conference would be "a mission of hope", adding that it was " unforgivable not to seize this opportunity" to end a war that had left more than 130,000 people dead and millions more displaced.
The Geneva II conference aims to achieve an agreement between the government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva Communique, adopted after the Geneva I conference on Jan. 30, 2012.
DAMASCUS, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- The countdown for the International Geneva II conference on the Syrian crisis has begun, as Syrian analysts deem it as the beginning of a solution despite the low expectations by the domestic opposition groups.
Elias Murad, president of the Union of Journalists of Syria, told reporters on Saturday that the Geneva II conference has become an international demand more than a Syrian one. Full story
DAMASCUS, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Saturday that the Syrian society will not tolerate the radical religious mentality, warning that of the impact of the growing extremism on the region's country, according to the official SANA news agency.
Assad said that the Syrian society will never accept the radical mentality, adding that this dangerous mentality does not only threaten Syria but also all of the region's countries. Full story
SANLIURFA, Turkey, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Ahead of the upcoming Geneva II peace conference, representatives of Syria's neighboring countries along with the UN refugee agency called on the international community to pay attention to the growing humanitarian plight in the conflict-torn country. Full story
MOSCOW, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Moscow and Damascus believed no one could undermine the peace conference on Syria scheduled for later this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.
Speaking to reporters after his talks with visiting Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem, Lavrov expressed Moscow's concern Syrian opposition group the National Coalition might attempt to delay the peace conference, known as Geneva-II, due to internal arguments. Full story