Foreign ministers hold talks in London with Syrian opposition

Foreign ministers hold talks in London with Syrian opposition

Foreign ministers from 11 Western and Arab countries met with the Syrian opposition in London on Tuesday, in an attempt to persuade them to attend a planned peace conference in Geneva, dpa reported.

The main opposition grouping, the National Coalition led by Ahmed al-Jarba, is to meet later this month to decide whether it will attend the conference.

A prominent group in the coalition, the Syrian National Council, has said that Geneva could not go ahead while Syrians continued to suffer under the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Before the London talks, host British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the various moderate factions to unite, saying it was the only way to end the conflict and prevent sectarianism from worsening.

"Syrians on all sides now need to make the effort and make the compromises necessary for a peace process to work," Hague told BBC radio.

"The longer this conflict goes on, the more sectarian it becomes, the more extremists are able to take hold. That is why we are making this renewed effort to get a Geneva peace process going," he added.

Al-Jarba and Hague, along with the foreign ministers from the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are attending the Friends of Syria meeting in London.

They are expected to repeat their position that al-Assad, who has said he will send a delegation to Geneva, can play no role in a future transitional government.

But in an interview with the Lebanese pro-Syrian al-Mayadeen television channel late Monday, al-Assad said he saw "no obstacles" to his running for power again in 2014.

He also reiterated accusations that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were "sending terrorists to fight inside Syria."

A spokesman for the US state department said Tuesday's talks would focus on support for the moderate Syrian opposition in preparation for Geneva.

It is not yet clear when the conference will take place.

At the weekend, Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi said it had been set for November 23 but at the same news conference UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the date had not been confirmed.

The uprising that started against the regime of al-Assad in March 2011 has caused more than 100,000 deaths, according to UN estimates.

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