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Syria: UN-sponsored peace talks may be postponed–source - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this September 26, 2013, file photo, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba (L) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (C) listen as American Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian people at the UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

In this September 26, 2013, file photo, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba (L) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (C) listen as American Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian people at the UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Paris/Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—As discord continues to plague the Syrian opposition, a source close to the Syrian National Coalition expressed doubt that the UN-sponsored peace talks slated for January 22 will take place on time.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Syrian opposition source told Asharq Al-Awsat that talks are unlikely to go ahead as scheduled, since the Syrian government is unlikely to meet the preconditions the Coalition has set for its participation in the talks.

The failure of President Bashar Al-Assad and his government to meet those conditions, which according to the source include “securing safe corridors, lifting the siege of [rebel-held] areas and beginning the release of women and children detainees,” which the source said is now “impossible,” would lead to the postponement of the Geneva II talks.

Even if the Syrian government does decide to meet these conditions it is likely that the Geneva II conference would be delayed to allow time for the Assad regime to take the appropriate measures.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, a member of the Coalition’s political authority, Ahmed Ramadan, said that US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford will soon lead a delegation to Moscow to urge Russia to exert pressure on the Syrian government to release detained women and children.

According to Ramadan, if the Syrian government were to meet the preconditions it would facilitate the Coalition’s decision to attend the talks with Assad, which will come during its General Authority’s meeting scheduled for January 17.

Ramadan also ruled out the prospect of the Coalition taking part in the UN-brokered talks unless the Syrian government meets the preconditions.

The anonymous opposition source added that the Coalition, which is backed by the West, needs more time to decide whether it will attend the Geneva talks, in the light of the lack of consensus among its members.

An array of Syrian opposition groups met for the first time on Thursday in the Spanish city of Córdoba in a bid to establish common ground ahead of the peace talks.

The two-day meeting, which according to Reuters was attended by delegates from Islamist rebel groups, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Coalition, as well as other opposition groups tolerated by Assad, sought to cultivate a common political vision in the opposition ranks.

Caroline Akoum contributed reporting from Beirut.