World Bulletin / News Desk
The Syrian opposition plans to present a three- to six-month timetable to set up a transitional governing body to prevent talks with President Bashar al-Assad's government from dragging on for years, an opposition delegate said on Wednesday.
Anas al-Abdah told Reuters that the proposal will be put forward when formal negotiations begin under United Nations auspices in Geneva on Friday - providing the Damascus government accepts the very idea of a transitional authority.
"First, the regime delegation has to commit to Geneva 1," Abdah said, referring to an international plan to establish a transitional governing body, with full executive powers, agreed by world powers in June 2012.
"Without the regime signing up to Geneva 1 we will not have a bottom line or a reference point for the talks."
"We already have names in mind for the Transitional Governing Body and both sides will have a veto on the names. We do not have a problem with that," Abdah said.
"But the regime does. Assad's foreign minister spoke for half an hour today without mentioning Geneva1," he said, referring to Moualem's lengthy opening speech to the international conference on Syria.
"If the regime does not sign up to Geneva 1 we will not repeat the mistake of the Palestinians and let these talks drag for years. We have no issue about how we will sit with the regime on Friday, whether in one room in proximity talks or two rooms. But the regime has to sign up."
Syrian minister says Assad will not step down
Syria's Information Minister said on Wednesday that President Bashar al-Assad will not step down, as demanded by some of the international powers seeking to end the country's protracted conflict.
"Assad isn't going," Omaran Zoabi told journalists on the sidelines of U.N.-sponsored face-to-face peace talks in the Swiss resort of Montreux.
Saudi minister says no role for Assad in transition
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Wednesday that there can be no role in Syria's transition for President Bashar al-Assad and those whose hands are "stained in blood".
In a speech to an international conference on Syria, Prince Saud called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria, including Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guards who are backing Damascus against rebel forces.
The United Nations conference must not lose sight of the goal of a political transition in Syria, he said, adding: "The time is right not to let down the Syrian people again."
Syrian opposition leader says torture photos reminiscent of Nazis
Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba said that published photos of torture of detainees allegedly committed by Syrian government forces are similar to crimes by Nazis during World War Two.
Jarba said Assad was responsible for crimes against humanity in the war-torn country."The pictures of torture are unprecedented except in the Nazi camps during the Second World War," he told the talks in the Swiss resort of Montreux.
Syrian officials could face war crimes charges after a military police photographer defected and provided evidence showing the systematic killing of 11,000 detainees, the AA reported on Monday.
Kerry says Assad cannot in any way be part of transition
Syria's Bashar al-Assad can have no place in a transition government because he has lost legitimacy to lead, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday at the launch of peace talks to end Syria's civil war
Kerry said the conference in the Swiss town of Montreux was a test for the international community to find a solution to end the fighting.
"We see only one option, negotiating a transition government born by mutual consent," Kerry said.
"That means that Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transition government. There is no way, no way possible, that a who has led a brutal response to his own people can regain legitimacy to govern."
Conference must end to "tragic conflict"
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was the main task of the Syria peace conference that opened in Switzerland on Wednesday "to achieve an end to the tragic conflict" and prevent a spillover to other countries in the region.
Lavrov, in his opening remarks, called on "external players" not to meddle in Syria's internal affairs. He said the internal political opposition should be part of a Syrian national dialogue, and that Iran, not present at the talks, should be part of the international dialogue.
U.N. chief says Syria challenges are not insurmountable
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Syria peace conference that began in Switzerland on Wednesday to make every effort to resolve the conflict.
"Great challenges lie ahead but they are not insurmountable," he said in his opening remarks.
He also called on government and rebels to allow "immediate and full humanitarian access to all communities in need".
"Hundreds of thousands of people have been cut off from any assistance for months, with disturbing reports of malnutrition and desperate health conditions. Food and medical and surgical equipment must be allowed in; the sick and wounded people must be allowed out," he said.
"The disaster is now all-encompassing."
'Syrians must decide fate of Assad'
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said that only the Syrian people can decide the fate of President Bashar al-Asssad.
Moualem, in a lengthy speech to the start of an international conference in the Swiss resort of Montreux, also called on foreign powers to stop "supporting terrorism" and to lift sanctions against Damascus.
"We came here as representatives of the Syrian people and state and everybody should know that nobody in this world has the right to withdraw the legitimacy of a president or government ... other than the Syrians themselves," he declared.
Fabius calls for immediate ceasefires in Syria
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called on Wednesday for immediate ceasefires in Syria and the opening of humanitarian corridors to deliver aid to civilians.
Fabius said: "This terrible situation, which is killing thousands of innocent women, children and men, exists. We asked from the onset of this conference that one or more ceasefires are put into place and that humanitarian corridors are opened and medicines delivered."
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad "bears a heavy responsibility in this situation but at the same time in the rise of criminal terrorism which it says it is fighting, but in reality is allied to," Fabius said.