Syria: Opposition set to boycott peace talks, saying Hezbollah's involvement makes dialogue 'impossible'

Comments come as a blow to international community, which has been at loggerheads over how to end the conflict

The Geneva conference on Syria was dealt an almost fatal blow today, just two weeks before the proposed date of the summit, when the opposition politicians said they intended to boycott the meeting.

The head of the umbrella political group that represents those fighting for an end to the regime of Bashar al-Assad said that Hezbollah’s involvement in the bloody civil war made talks impossible. “The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militants of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria,” George Sabra, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), told reporters in Istanbul.

The comments will come as a blow to the international community, which has been at loggerheads over how to end the conflict. The Geneva talks are a joint US-Russian initiative after two years of bitter disagreement and argument over how best to bring peace to Syria. The West has largely called for Assad’s departure, while Moscow – a close ally of the Assad regime – has continued to export weapons and assistance to Damascus.

The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah is understood to have played a leading role in the battle for the strategically important town of Qusair, which lies near the Lebanese border. The town has been held by rebel groups for some time, but has come under heavy bombardment from regular government forces and Hezbollah fighters in recent weeks.

“Civilians have no access to water, electricity and the massacre continues minute by minute while the Assad regime continues to use weapons [it has been given by its allies],” Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the SNC said of Qusair.

The SNC had previously indicated that it would take part in the Geneva talks, but only if the process led to Assad’s departure. The government has also suggested that it will take part, but has insisted that the president will remain in office at least until scheduled elections next year – and possibly beyond.

The prospects for peace appear remote, however. Damascus said today that it had received the first batch of the sophisticated S300 missiles it had been promised by Russia as part of an arms deal six years ago. The delivery, if confirmed, comes just days after a European Union arms embargo on Syria was lifted in order to make exports to rebel groups possible. Meanwhile, Israel has said warned that it could act to prevent the S300s getting into Hezbollah’s hands.

Rebel groups fighting in Qusair today called for fresh medical assistance, saying that they were unable to evacuate their injured. “We have 700 people wounded in Qusair and 100 of them are being given oxygen. The town is surrounded and there’s no way to bring in medical aid,” Malek Ammar, an opposition activist in the besieged town, told the Reuters news agency.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Application Support Engineer - Software

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A small rapidly expanding IT So...

The Grange Retirement Home: Full Time Care Team Manager

£22,400: The Grange Retirement Home: This is a key role which requires a sound...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

£23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada