Assad to be kept out of Syria peace talks, France
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be invited to next month's peace talks, dubbed Geneva II, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday. Factions of the opposition Fabius dubbed "terrorists" would also not be represented, he said.
"The purpose of Geneva II is not to have an armchair discussion about Syria, it's to have mutual agreement between regime representatives, without Assad, and the moderate opposition in order to form a transitional government," Laurent Fabius told French radio. "It's very difficult but it's the only solution that allows us at once not to have Mr Bashar al-Assad and not to have the terrorists."
Foreign ministry officials later explained that France wants one delegation from the Assad government and one from the Syrian National Coalition, with the intention of keeping radical Islamist grouups, such the al-Nusra Front, away.
The opposition Syrian National Army has announced that it will not attend and will not lay down its arms during or after the talks.
The UN says that Geneva II, which aims to bring together opposition and government representatives for the first time since the anti-Assad rebellion in March 2011, will take place on 22 January.
The US and Russia declared their support for the proposal on Monday.