The Foreign Minister H E Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah with foreign ministers of France Laurent Fabius, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Saud Al Faisal, Britain’s William Hague, US’ John Kerry, the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and other officials before the ‘London 11’ meeting from the Friends of Syria Core Group yesterday.
LONDON: Western nations and their Middle Eastern allies pressed Syria’s fractured opposition yesterday to join proposed peace talks, although President Bashar Al Assad has made clear he will not step down — which is their condition for participating.
The US and Russia said in May they would convene a “Geneva 2” conference to try to end a conflict that has killed well over 100,000 people and forced millions from their homes, but it faces huge obstacles and no firm date has been set.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, hosting the meeting of 11 nations, said beforehand that it was vital that all elements of the Western-backed Syrian opposition join the talks.
“If they are not part of a peace process in Syria then all the Syrian people have got left is to choose between Assad on the one hand and extremists,” he told BBC Radio.
However, opposition factions are loathe to discuss anything except the immediate departure of Assad - who said on Monday he saw no reason why he should not run for re-election next year.
And many of the mostly Islamist rebels fighting in Syria refuse to recognise the exiled opposition favoured by the West.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met Ahmad Jarba, the head of the umbrella opposition Syrian National Coalition, before the London talks began, but there was no word on the outcome.
Kerry said on Monday events may have moved in Assad’s favour since he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced plans for the peace conference five months ago, but that the aim remained to get both sides to choose a transitional government. Reuters