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Geneva II meet on Syria comes under cloud
Tuesday November 26, 2013 8:13 PM, IANS

The widely hailed Geneva II peace conference on Syria, scheduled for Jan 22 next year, came under a cloud Tuesday after a key rebel group vowed to boycott it and continue fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced Tuesday that it would not attend the Geneva II conference, stressing that it would keep fighting until the downfall of President Assad.

However, the Damascus-based opposition group National Coordination Body (NCB) hailed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's announcement of the date for Geneva but, at the same time, warned that the failure of the conference would endanger Syria and the entire region.

The FSA's commander, breakaway General Salim Idriss, said Tuesday that his group would not join the peace talks at the proposed Geneva II conference, Xinhua reported citing France 24 TV.

Idriss further stressed that the FSA would continue fighting the government troops in Syria when the conference is under way until the ouster of Assad, it added.

In such a scneario, the conference would not result in anything concrete to solve the crisis in Syria as the government troops would have to respond to the FSA's attacks.

On its part, the NCB said the Geneva II conference was based on the results of the previous conference in Geneva last year that had drawn up a roadmap to solve the crisis in Syria but which never materialised.

Ban said Monday that Geneva II should result in a transitional government in Syria as agreed upon in last year's conference.

"The NCB urges all parties concerned to make the political process successful in the hope of transmitting Syria to a democratic, political system in the future Syria," the NCB said in a statement read during a press conference.

The opposition group also underscored the importance of international, regional and Arab consensus as well as a consensus among the opposition groups to make the conference a success.

Meanwhile, China too Tuesday welcomed and expressed support for the second Geneva conference on Syria, urging all parties concerned to engage in the political process and make positive progress.

"It's important progress in implementing Resolution 2118 of the UN Security Council and pushing for a political solution on Syria, which has also been China's constant orientation," Xinhua quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying.

The Syrian issue must be settled via political means, he told a press briefing.

China calls on all sides in Syria to take the interests of the country and the people as priorities, actively engage in the political process, work with the international community and prepare for the conference, Qin said.

China will also make its own contribution to that end, he added.

Meanwhile, violence continued to wrack the strife-torn nation Tuesday with the Syrian health ministry saying that rebels have massacred 10 medical staffers in the northern countryside of the capital Damascus.

Five doctors, five nurses and two drivers have been massacred by the "armed terrorist groups" in the Deir Attieh town in the northern outskirts of Damascus, Xinhua reported citing the state-run SANA news agency, giving no other details.

The Al Qaeda-linked groups have recently infiltrated Deir Attieh after the army dislodged them from the adjacent town of Qara.

The army had laid a siege around the town in a bid to dislodge the entrenched rebels.

Meanwhile, three people were killed Tuesday in Damascus in renewed mortar attacks that targeted two districts of the capital.

The mortars landed on the Baghdad Street in the northern district of Barzeh, Xinhua reported citing SANA.

The attacks are the latest in an endless series of indiscriminate mortar attacks the rebels opted for in a bid to destabilise daily life in the government-controlled areas, mainly Damascus.


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