Syrian opposition drops Kerry talks boycott as aid pledged
The Syrian opposition has dropped its boycott of talks with John Kerry, William Hague and other western backers after promises of substantially increased aid, western diplomatic sources have said.
The leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, informed the Italian government yesterday that he had persuaded his partners to attend a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome this week, reversing an announcement on Sunday that the group would stay away from all such talks because of the international community’s failure to end the bloodshed.
Sensitive to frustration
The move came after Mr Kerry, the US secretary of state, phoned Mr Khatib, urging him to attend.
Mr Kerry, in London on his first foreign trip since becoming secretary of state, said he was sensitive to the frustration of the Syrian opposition, but promised new American support for the National Coalition would “come to maturity by the time we meet in Rome”. Other US measures would be discussed in the Italian capital if the opposition took part in the Friends of Syria meeting, he said.
Mr Kerry’s intensive tour will see him today in Brlin, progressing through the week to Paris and Rome. He will also visit Ankara in Turkey, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
While the tour is “all about Syria” as an analyst at Washington’s Brookings Institution put it, it nonetheless underscores a renewed interest in the Middle East in general in the second term Obama administration which next month sees the president visiting Israel.
In London yesterday, Mr Kerry insisted US policy on Syria remained the pursuit of a political resolution, suggesting that direct military aid was not on the immediate agenda, but he added: “We are determined that the Syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind, wondering where the support is, if it is coming.”
Mr Khatib said: “We will reconsider the decision on the boycott in light of the strong message of support we and Syrian people got over the weekend.” He had been under fire from some in the coalition for his offer to open talks with the Damascus regime before the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, steps aside.
In Moscow, the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, said that the government was prepared to hold talks with the rebels, while pursuing its fight “against terrorism”. Rebel commanders have said that they will not enter talks while government forces keep up their bombardment of rebel-held towns.
“An appalling injustice is being done to the people of Syria, which the world cannot ignore,” said British foreign secretary William Hague after talks with Mr Kerry. – (The Guardian)