The Friends of Syria group and opposition leaders insist President Bashar Assad has no role in the country’s future government, pushing for his resignation as a pre-condition for their participation in the Geneva-2 peace talks.
Assad “has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria,”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after the meeting of
the so-called Friends of Syria group in London. He added that
“the only sustainable way to end this conflict and the
suffering of innocent Syrian civilians is through a political
transition in Syria.”
Hague was speaking after a meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria group. Foreign ministers and representatives of 11 Western nations and Arab states gathered in the British capital on Tuesday, ahead of peace talks known as Geneva-2 which are planned for November.
The group pledged further support to the Syrian moderate opposition. They pushed the fractured opposition to take part in the peace conference, even though Assad has made clear he was not planning to step down and even sees no “obstacles to being nominated to run” in the next presidential poll.
“If [the opposition groups] 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,” Hague told BBC Radio earlier.
The British minister warned that the longer the Syrian conflict goes on “the more sectarian it becomes and the more extremists are able to take hold and that is why we are making this renewed effort to get a Geneva peace process going.”
However, the Syrian opposition seems unwilling to discuss anything but Assad’s resignation from office.
Opposition chief Ahmad Jarba said that they would not attend the peace conference unless its main objective was to remove Assad from power.
“There will not be any negotiations at all without making sure that the Geneva 2 meeting is basically for the transitional period and for Assad to go," Jarba said after the London meeting.
“The people will not believe us and will regard us as traitors to the revolution and to the blood of the rebels,” he told the gathering earlier.
A key group within the Syrian opposition National Coalition said it would not attend the Geneva-2 talks if the Assad regime takes part and would quit the Coalition if it participated. However, the National Coalition chief did not completely rule out the possibility of attending Geneva 2 and said the group was planning to meet on November 1 to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he hoped Geneva 2 would go ahead as planned but added that Western countries could not control whether all parties would attend the talks.
“You can win at the negotiating table what it may take a long time and a lot of... loss of life to win on the battlefield,” he said told the opposition, according to the BBC.
Kerry also observed that he knows no one “who believes that the opposition will ever consent to Bashar al-Assad being part of that government.” The American diplomat added that if the Syrian President thinks that “he is going to solve problems by running for re-election… this war will not end.”
Russia and the US have been pushing to hold the Syria peace conference since May, but the idea has faced various obstacles and so far no firm date has been set.
According to the Arab League chief, the gathering may finally start on November 23. The United Nations though has not confirmed the date saying that it has not been officially agreed.
The Russian envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin said Tuesday the Geneva 2 conference had been delayed long enough.
“We cannot delay it. The Syrian conflict is taking particularly dangerous inter-faith shades,” he said, as cited by Itar-Tass. Churkin also reminded that unlike the Syrian opposition, the Assad government has repeatedly voiced its readiness to participate in the talks.