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World meeting on Syria agrees ‘no role’ for Assad
Foreign ministers of Western and Arab nations meeting with Syrian opposition figures in London on Tuesday agreed there would be no role for President Bashar al-Assad in any future government. More Syrian peace talks are due in Geneva next month.
Western and Arab powers meeting with Syrian opposition leaders in London on Tuesday agreed that there would be no role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any future government.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said they had agreed a "number of important steps", while urging the coalition to commit itself to the Geneva conference.
"First we agreed that we would put our united and collective weight behind the UN-led Geneva 2 process, which must lead to establishing, by mutual consent, a transitional governing body with executive powers," Hague said.
"By definition mutual consent means it can only be agreed with the consent of the Syrian National Coalition -- so Assad would play no role in that future government of Syria."
The role of the embattled Syrian president was a key sticking point in the lead-up to the London talks.
Hague was the host at the London talks, which includes representatives from the US, France, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, together with Syrian opposition leaders.
Foreign ministers of the so-called “London 11” – the core group of “the Friends of Syria” group – held talks with Syrian opposition figures to try to hammer out a unified position ahead of the planned Geneva talks, also known as “Geneva 2”. The peace talks have been tentatively scheduled for November 23.
The brutal Syrian conflict shows no signs of abating, with the death toll rising to the hundreds of thousands and refugee figures crossing the 2 million mark.
But peace continues to be elusive as a divided international community attempts to unite a fractured Syrian opposition.
The Syrian National Council, a key member of the Syrian National Coalition, has already said it opposes the Geneva conference and has threatened to quit the umbrella opposition group if representatives of Assad's regime take part.
A day before the London talks opened, a defiant Assad declared he was willing to run for re-election in 2014, a move designed to anger the opposition.
There were no representatives from Russia, a key backer of the Assad regime, at the talks.
Moscow has dismissed such meetings in the past, saying they do not represent all Syrian people.
'The Sultan must leave’
Shortly before the London talks began, Hague said it was vital that all elements of the Western-backed opposition groups join the Geneva talks to ensure that the moderate opposition seizes the initiative from extremist groups.
Speaking to reporters after the London talks, Hague said it was vital that the Western-backed Syrian opposition join the talks.
"We urge the [Syrian] National Coalition to commit itself fully and to lead and form the heart of any opposition delegation to Geneva," he told a news conference.
In his speech, Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba told the gathering that the opposition risks losing credibility if it yields to international pressure to attend talks that do not aim at Assad's removal.
"The people will not believe us and will regard us as traitors to the revolution and to the blood of the rebels," said Jarba, in a speech that was released to reporters before the talks.
"The Sultan must leave," said Jarba. "Geneva cannot succeed and we cannot take
part if it allows Assad to gain more time to spill the blood of our people while the world looks on."
(FRANCE 24 with wires)