MOSCOW, October 13 (RIA Novosti) – A major Syrian opposition group that has gained international recognition will not participate in the Moscow-backed Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria, the group’s leader told RIA Novosti on Sunday.
“Nothing useful will come out for Syrians from attending the meeting,” George Sabra of the Syrian National Council said.
“The decision [not to participate] was made yesterday by the general secretariat [of the council],” Sabra said by telephone from France.
The Geneva-2 talks were proposed by Moscow and Washington as a means of getting the Syrian government and the opposition behind the negotiating table in the hope of ending the 2 1/2-year-long civil strife in the Middle Eastern country.
Sabra said his group had bailed out due to the lackluster international response to the consequences of the Syrian war, among which he listed mass slaughter of civilians, food shortages and, recently, the use of chemical weapons.
The Istanbul-based Syrian National Council will decide on its further strategy after consultations with Syrians on the ground, including the Free Syrian Army rebel force, Sabra said.
The Syrian National Council, formed in 2011 as an opposition government in exile, has won limited diplomatic recognition from a number of countries, including France, the UK and the US.
In November 2012, it joined the broader Syrian National Coalition, which has been recognized by 20 UN members as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and has Syria’s seat in the Arab League.
Sabra said the Syrian National Council will quit the Syrian National Coalition if the latter goes through with its plan to participate in Geneva-2.
Eleven leading armed rebel groups, including representatives of the fractured Free Syrian Army as well as Islamists such as the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front, said in a joint statement last month that they rejected the authority of the Syrian National Coalition, the BBC reported at the time.
Analysts said the move was a backlash against the coalition’s willingness to participate in Geneva-2 talks, a date for which has not yet been set.
The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has voiced its willingness to attend the Geneva-2 conference without any preconditions.
Most rebel groups say the removal of Assad and his close affiliates is a sine qua non for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, which has cost more than 100,000 lives to date, according to UN data.
No one was able to comment on Sabra’s statement at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Sunday. Russia has staunchly advocated a political solution to the Syrian crisis while opposing all attempts by Western and Arab countries to blame the standoff solely on Assad.