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Assad agrees to participate in Geneva peace talks 'in principle' as opposition bows out

The Syrian opposition said it would not participate in peace talks until the siege on Qusayr ends.

Geneva 2 peace conference assad rebelsEnlarge
(Foreground) Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L), Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani of Qatar (3rdL), Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh (C), US Secretary of State John Kerry (3rdR), United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan (2ndR), German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (R) and second ground, from second, left, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino pose for a family picture along with other delegates before the opening of the 'Friends of Syria' meeting in Amman, Jordan on May 22, 2013. The gathering seeks to discuss US-Russian proposal to hold a peace conference dubbed 'Geneva 2' to bring together rebels and representatives of Syrian President's regime. (Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirmed that he will send negotiators to peace talks slated to take place in Geneva, just as the Syrian opposition pulled out of the talks. 

"We will attend this conference as the official delegation and legitimate representatives of the Syrian people," Assad said in an interview with Lebanese pro-Hezbollah station Al-Manar.  

"In principle, we are in favor of the conference as a notion, but there are no details yet," Assad said in the interview.

"For example, will there be conditions placed before the conference? If so, these conditions may be unacceptable and we would not attend. So the idea of the conference, of a meeting, in principle is a good one. We will have to wait and see."

Russia and Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem both said in recent days that Assad had agreed "in principle" to participate in the peace conference, but the Syrian opposition demanded to hear the confirmation from Assad himself. 

However, the opposition, as represented by the Syrian National Coalition, pulled out of the as-yet-unscheduled peace conference Thursday citing the government's continued offensive on Qusayr. 

"The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria," said George Sabra, the head of the SNC, from Istanbul on Thursday, Al Jazeera reported

The SNC said that as long as the siege on the rebel-held town continued, they would not attend "Geneva 2." 

"Civilians [in Qusayr] have no access to water, electricity and the massacre continues minute by minute while the Assad regime continues to use weapons," said Khaled Saleh, the SNC spokesperson.

In his interview, Assad made sure to clarify that his government was not attending to negotiate with the opposition.

"As for the opposition groups abroad and their flag, we know that we are attending the conference not to negotiate with them, but rather with the states that back them," he said. "It will appear as though we are negotiating with the slaves, but essentially we are negotiating with their masters. This is the truth, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves."

The peace conference decisions came as Assad claimed to have received a shipment of missiles from Russia, who is planning the conference with the US.

More from GlobalPost: Assad vague on Syria receiving S-300 air defense missiles from Russia

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130530/assad-agrees-geneva-peace-talks-rebels-bow-out