Turkish FM set to launch tour over Syria

Turkish FM set to launch tour over Syria

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is set to begin a three day tour in Syria on Oct. 22 to deliberate the developments concerning Syria and its chemical weapons Hurriyetdailynews reported.

Following a deal under which Syria will turn over its chemical arsenal to be destroyed, the international community renewed its push for a Geneva II conference.

Davutogu's itinerary includes the United Kingdom, where he will attend the core group meeting, the Friends of the Syrian People, on Oct. 22, along with 10 other prominent Western and Arab countries, including the United States. The Turkish foreign minister will then head for Oman and Kuwait, two important Gulf countries, to exchange views about the developments in Syria on the sidelines of bilateral issues.

The meeting in London has a particular importance as the core group countries will find a chance to broadly evaluate the efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria and to lead a political transition. The meeting will also give an opportunity for the core group to come together with the Syrian opposition on the eve of the upcoming Geneva II meeting, which will probably take place in late November.

Opposition divided

While the Syrian opposition is divided on attending the upcoming Geneva conference, the National Coalition, umbrella group of the opposition, said it would hold internal discussions next week, culminating a vote on whether or not to attend the gathering.

The Syrian opposition, earlier, said it will only negotiate if it is agreed from the start that Bashar al-Assad will be removed from power at the end of a transition period. However, the Syrian regime said President al-Assad's removal from office will not be on the table at any talks.

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said a proposed peace conference in Geneva could take place on Nov. 23-24. Jamil noted there was "no alternative" to the peace conference and the absence of parts of the Syrian opposition would not affect the timing or format.

"Today no aspect of the Syrian crisis can be solved without it," he said in remarks translated from Arabic into Russian, adding the talks had to put an end to "foreign interference" in the conflict.

"This will lead to the launch of a political process and cessation of violence," he added.

The dates were however soon dismissed by the Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, who noted that it was not up to the Syrian regime to name a date for the talks.

"This is a matter for the UN Secretary General (Ban Ki-moon), under whose auspices this forum will be held. We will wait for his ... official announcement of these dates," Lukashevic further added.

The London meeting will also create an opportunity for Davutoglu to meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who announced his participation in the meeting in a statement yesterday. Davutoglu and Kerry exchanged phone calls this week to discuss recent developments in Syria and to coordinate the upcoming London meeting.

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