Syria opposition agrees to talks

Syria’s main opposition alliance says it will attend planned peace talks, if a number of conditions are met.

The Syrian National Coalition is calling for a guarantee that relief agencies will be given access to besieged areas, and political prisoners will be released.

It also says that any conference should result in a political transition.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has rejected any preconditions for the conference in Geneva.

The UN, US and Russia had been trying to convene the meeting by the end of November.

But UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said last week that the conference would be delayed, although he was still “striving” for a summit by the end of the year.

Future of Syria

The Syrian National Coalition reached the agreement after two days of talks in Istanbul.

A statement released by the office of Monzer Azbik, the chief of staff to the coalition’s leader, repeated the group’s demand that President Assad step down in any transitional government.

“Bashar al-Assad will have no role in the transitional period and the future of Syria,” it said.

It outlined conditions that must be met before the talks, including a guarantee of access for relief agencies.

It comes a day after elders from the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya reportedly managed to negotiate a temporary lifting of a government blockade to allow some food supplies into the area. The suburb has been under siege for a month.

More than nine million Syrians are believed to be in need of humanitarian relief

Attempts to set up a “Geneva II” conference to end the Syrian conflict have been continuing for months amid disputes over who should attend and its agenda.

The Syrian government has already agreed to attend peace talks.

Ahmed Jarba, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition, had already indicted a willingness to attend.

But several of the major rebel fighting groups have renounced the coalition and have rejected the idea of talks.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011, according to the UN.

Aid agencies have warned that more than nine million Syrians, almost half the population are now in need of humanitarian relief.

No date for the peace talks has been set.

The UN-Arab League envoy said he would meet US and Russian diplomats again on 25 November to try to make arrangements.