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Assad's departure 'inevitable': Friends of Syria


Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his family have "no future" in the war-torn country, the opposition said Sunday after meeting with its support group, the Friends of Syria.

"We all agreed that there is no future for Bashar al-Assad and his family in Syria," said Ahmad Jarba, the leader of Syria's opposition National Coalition. "His departure is inevitable."

Speaking after a meeting in Paris with the US-led Friends of Syria, he said the group were fully unanimous on the issue.

"We are at a crossroads today in the framework of international decisions regarding the Syrian revolution," Jarba said.

"We have passed a milestone on the way to the end of the regime."

However Jarba did not announce whether the opposition would take part in peace talks with representatives of Assad's regime due to start on January 22 in Switzerland.

The Coalition, which is under intense pressure to confirm its participation and failed to reach a decision after two days of debate in Istanbul last week, has said it will decide on the issue on Friday.

"We emphasised over and over to the opposition representatives that not taking part in the talks would lead to a failure of the discussions or would prevent them from taking place," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "I hope we convinced them."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius implicitly acknowledged that it was still uncertain that the opposition would be represented at the so-called Geneva II peace talks to be held in Montreux, Switzerland.

"It is important that the Geneva II meeting takes place and succeeds," Fabius said. "The only solution to the Syrian tragedy is a political solution."

In a statement issued at the end of Sunday's talks, the 11-nation Friends of Syria urged the opposition to "respond positively" to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's invitation to send a delegation to the Montreux talks.

"We invite them to form... a delegation of opposition forces to participate in the political process," the statement said, adding: "We pledge our full backing to the opposition during the Geneva II Conference."

The Friends of Syria groups Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

For its part, Damascus has insisted that Assad would lead any transition agreed at the Geneva talks.

"If anyone thinks we are going to Geneva 2 to hand the keys to Damascus over, they might as well not go," Information Minister Omran Al Zohbi  said in December.

The Geneva communique reached in June 2012 envisaged a transition for Syria, but did not specify whether Assad should leave.

The conference in Montreux is designed to find a political solution to end the civil war in Syria, which has claimed more than 130,000 lives and displaced millions of people since March 2011.