February 22, 2013 - 09:32 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The opposition Syrian National Coalition is willing to negotiate a peace deal to end the country's civil war but President Bashar al-Assad must step down and cannot be a party to any settlement, members agreed after debating a controversial initiative by their president, Reuters reported.
The meeting of the 70-member Western, Arab and Turkish-backed coalition began on Thursday, Feb 21, before Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem is due for talks in Moscow, one of Assad's last foreign allies, and as UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi renews efforts for a deal.
After an angry late night session in which coalition president Moaz Alkhatib came under strong criticism from Islamist and liberal members alike for proposing talks with Assad's government without setting what they described as clear goals, the coalition adopted a political document that demands Assad's removal and trial for the bloodshed, members said.
According to Reuters, a draft document seen by the agency that was circulated for debate said Assad cannot be party to any political solution and has to be tried, but did not directly call for his removal.
"We have adopted the political document that sets the parameters for any talks. The main addition to the draft is a clause about the necessity of Assad stepping step down," said Abdelbasset Sida, a member of the coalition's 12 member politburo who has criticized Alkhatib for acting alone.
"We removed a clause about a need for Russian and U.S. involvement in any talks and added that the coalition's leadership has to be consulted before launching any future initiatives," he added. Still, the agreement marked a softening of tone by the coalition because previously it had insisted that Assad must step down before any talks with his government could begin.