The Geneva II conference on the Syria crisis has revealed major differences of opinion between the Syrian government and the foreign-backed opposition from the very outset.
The much-anticipated talks kicked off on Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux to discuss a transition plan ahead of direct talks between the opposition and the government in Geneva on Friday.
But deep differences soon emerged with the opposition and its foreign sponsors insisting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must not have any role in the country’s new government.
"We agree completely with Geneva I decisions that everyone has agreed upon. I invite partners to sign on Geneva I right now during their presence here and start a transition of Assad’s power to a transitional body that will build the structure of new Syria," said Ahmad al-Jarba, head of the so-called Syrian National Coalition.
Jarba’s remarks were echoed in comments made by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who insisted that there was no room for Assad in the future government of Syria.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, however, dismissed the remarks, noting, "No one in the world has the right to confer or withdraw the legitimacy of a president, a constitution or a law, except for the Syrians themselves. This is their right."
Muallem expressed regret that some countries attending the international conference "have the blood of Syrian people on their hands."
The Syrian foreign minister blamed them for "exporting terrorism, as well as tools of murder" and "flooding media with lies" to cover the crimes of the mercenaries and militants they have been funding in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also called on all foreign players to "abide by basic principles of international law: respect for Syria’s sovereignty and not interfering in its internal affairs."
He rejected the use of force in Syria and reiterated Russia’s call for dialog among Syrian parties as the only solution to the crisis that has been plaguing the Arab nation over that past three years.