Key Syrian opposition group will attend peace conference

BY newsdesk  January 18, 2014 at 3:32 PM EST

Syria’s main, western-backed opposition group has agreed to attend a peace conference next week in Switzerland. The Syrian National Coalition voted in favor of attending the U.N.-sponsored talks, which will focus on ending the country’s ongoing civil war.

The Syrian government had already announced its plans to participate in the conference, making this the first time both parties will meet face-to-face since the conflict began in March of 2011.

Previous attempts by the U.S. and Russia to get the groups to meet were held up by demands from both sides. The opposition dropped its demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down before the talks.

The main goal of the conference will be for both sides to agree on a roadmap for the country. The roadmap will be based on a plan already adopted by the U.S., Russia and other world powers. Stipulations will include creating a transitional government and planning for eventual elections.

Although Syrian officials have agreed to attend the conference, there is some dispute over the focus on setting up a transitional authority.

According to Reuters, the Syrian government said its priority is “to continue to fight terrorism.”