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Standoff on Syria deepens ahead of Geneva talks

World powers prepare to meet on the conflict in Syria despite divisions.

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A picture taken on June 5, 2013, shows homemade weapons left by Syrian rebels after the army seized total control of the city of Qusayr and the surrounding region in Syria's central Homs province. The Syrian army ousted rebels from the strategic town of Qusayr after a blistering 17-day assault led by Hezbollah fighters, scoring a major battlefield success in a war that has killed at least 94,000 people. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Syrian regime agreed Monday to join planned talks on the Syrian conflict to be held in Geneva. However, it remained adamant on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's position, insisting that he will not step down, according to Al Jazeera.

As Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem bluntly put it to the Syrian opposition: “If your condition is President Assad’s resignation, don’t bother coming."

"We will head to Geneva not to hand over power to the other side ... We will go to Geneva in order to set up a real partnership and a broad national unity government," Muallem told reporters in Damascus on Monday, according to Al Jazeera

His remarks came as Russia, one of Assad's last remaining allies, protested Western support for Syria's rebel movement. 

Referring to a Saturday decision by the Western-leaning "Friends of Syria" group to bolster support for the Syrian rebels, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying: "One must notice that the aim to provide, in fact, unlimited military support for the Syrian opposition — announced in Doha and in practice already carried out — completely contradicts efforts for a swift political solution in Syria." 

Muallem called the move by the "Friends of Syria" group "very dangerous," saying it will drag out the conflict, according to the Associated Press.

Russian officials are set to meet with US representatives as well as the United Nations' Syria envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, for talks on Syria in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday. 

Also Monday, British Foreign Minister William Hague said the Syrian regime's continued attacks on the opposition hurts mediation efforts. For them to go to Geneva "while such offensives are being conducted against them obviously is more difficult," he told reporters at the United Nations in New York, according to India's Zee News.

"But we must not give up at all on trying to bring such a conference together," he later said. "There has to be a political solution." 

Previous efforts to find a solution to the crisis have not succeeded. Reports of the Syrian conflict — which has already claimed an estimated 93,000 lives — spilling across its borders into Lebanon and neighboring countries lend urgency to the situation.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130624/standoff-syria-deepens-ahead-geneva-talks