Friends of Syria to meet with Syria opposition in London talks this week
Leaders from Western and Arab countries will meet with Syria’s opposition in London on Tuesday to convince key rebel leaders to attend talks in Geneva scheduled for late November, according to AFP.
The so-called London 11, the main members of the "Friends of Syria," including the United States, France and Saudi Arabia, are scheduled to meet with representatives from Syria's opposition to discuss the details about the upcoming Geneva II talks aimed to end the conflict in war-torn Syria and their support for the Syria opposition National coalition (SNC) more generally.
The SNC plans to focus their discussions in London on the London 11's understanding about the proposed Geneva II talks and their expectations on the conference's outcomes. The London 11 aims to discuss political solutions to end the conflict, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague particularly suggesting that the London talks are designed to ensure that the Geneva conference will be successful in "bring[ing] about a political settlement to this tragic conflict."
However, Syria's opposition is still planning to hold internal talks in Istanbul later this week to vote on whether they will attend the November talks in the first place. In recent statements, some leaders from the divided Syrian opposition have stated that they will not attend the Geneva talks with representatives from Assad's regime still in power. The Syrian National Council, one of the key members of the Syrian opposition National Coalition, has already stated that it will leave the SNC if the coalition participates in the conference. Syrian government authorities have consistently stated that they are wiling to take part in the Geneva peace talks, but will not participate in the case that there are preconditions such as Assad's resignation.
A spokesman from the French Foreign Ministry, Romain Nidal, stressed the importance of working with the opposition before Tuesday's talks to ensure "a united front" for the Geneva conference.
While the SNC and the London 11 prepare for Tuesday's talks, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Arab League UN envoy was pushing for the peace negotiations Sunday in Cairo before heading to Damascus for further peace discussions.
Russia, Syria's ally who helped Damascus avert US military strikes in September, is not attending the London meeting.
In addition to the United States, France, and Saudi Arabia, the other London 11 countries include Britain, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.