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Syria will 'in principle' attend Geneva peace talks: Foreign Minister

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said the government will "in principle" participate in multilateral talks in Geneva in June.

Walid al moualem headshotEnlarge
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem at a press conference with in Damascus on Dec. 12, 2007. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad will "in principle" attend multilateral peace talks in Geneva, hoping the conference will help resolve the country's civil war, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Sunday.

The United States and Russia - Assad's most powerful ally - have both sponsored the talks planned for June, the latest effort to end the violence that has killed at least 80,000 people and displaced millions.

"Syria will, in principle, participate in the international conference planned for June in Geneva," Moualem said, speaking to reporters in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart. "We believe the meeting presents a good opportunity to resolve the Syrian crisis."

"No power on earth can decide on the future of Syria. Only the Syrian people have the right to do so," he added.

On Friday, Russia claimed Assad's government had agreed to participate in the peace conference, saying Damascus was ready "in principle" to confer with the international community.

“We note with satisfaction that Damascus has confirmed its readiness in principle to participate in an international conference in the interest of the Syrians themselves finding a political path to a settlement of the conflict that has been devastating for the country and the region,” said Aleksandr Lukashevich, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Syrian opposition says it will likely attend the Geneva conference, but the rebel coalition has expressed its skepticism, since their demand that Assad step down and leave office is unlikely to be met.

The conference, dubbed Geneva 2 and based on the UN-backed Action Group for Syria meeting from June 2012, is meant to find a political solution to Syria's conflict.

On Wednesday, key broker of the conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry, warned Assad to make "a commitment to find peace in his country," or risk the US and other nations increasing their support to the opposition.

"Our understanding [is that] if Geneva 2 were not on the horizon, all we would be looking at is the continued tragic disintegration of the county that will go down further into more violence and more destruction," Kerry said

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/130526/syria-will-principle-attend-geneve-talks-foreign-minister