Syria ready to take part in Geneva peace talks: Minister

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem speaking during a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on Dec 24, 2015.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem speaking during a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on Dec 24, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Syria is ready to take part in peace talks in Geneva and hopes that the dialogue will help the country form a national unity government, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem said on Thursday (Dec 24).

The United Nations Security Council last Friday (Dec 25) unanimously approved a resolution endorsing an international road map for a Syrian peace process, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives.

The UN plans to convene peace talks in Geneva towards the end of January.

Moualem, who spoke to reporters in English, said he had told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Syria was "ready to participate in the Syrian-Syrian dialogue in Geneva without any foreign interference". He said that "our delegation will be ready as soon as we receive a list of the opposition delegation".

"We hope that this dialogue will be successful to help us in having a national unity government," Moualem said. "This government will compose a constitutional committee to look for a new constitution with a new law of election so the parliamentary election will be held within the period of 18 months, more or less."

Friday's (Dec 25) resolution gives UN blessing to a plan negotiated earlier in Vienna that calls for a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition and a roughly two-year timeline to create a unity government and hold elections.

But the obstacles to ending the war remain daunting, with no side in the conflict able to secure a clear military victory. Despite their agreement at the United Nations, the major powers are bitterly divided on who may represent the opposition as well as on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Wang over the weekend invited Syrian government and opposition figures to come to China as Beijing looks to ways to help with the peace process.

China has played host to both Syrian government and opposition figures before, though it remains a peripheral diplomatic player in the crisis.

While relying on the region for oil supplies, China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia.