"Iran and Hezbollah propping up Syria," UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

Published May 22nd, 2013 - 12:06 GMT
British Foreign Secretary William Hague waves during a press conference in Amman on May 22 (AFP)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague waves during a press conference in Amman on May 22 (AFP)

Iran and its Shiite Lebanese ally Hezbollah are “propping up” President Bashar al-Assad and giving him increasing support, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday.

Speaking before a meeting of the Friends of Syria alliance in the Jordanian capital, Hague said Britain would urge international powers to set a date in the next few days for an international conference to try to end the two-year-old conflict engulfing Syria and threatening regional stability.

"It is the longstanding view of the UK that Assad needs to go, and we have never been able to see any solution which involves him staying," Hague told a press conference.

The aim of the meeting, Hague stressed, would be agreement on the formation of "a transitional government with full executive authority, formed on the basis of mutual consent."

The meeting in Jordan on Wednesday of the Friends of Syria bloc sets to carve through peace efforts to end the conflict in Syria, with the main discussions set to focus on a U.S.-Russian proposal for peace talks.

Delegates from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, are attending the meeting of the Friends of Syria group held in Amman.

“This meeting ... in Amman is to bring together all of the key players in the region as well as the key partners in Europe and the United States to talk about strategy,” a senior U.S. State Department official told AFP news agency.

“It’s basically to review where we are on Syria.”

In a rare twist, Syrian Ambassador to Jordan Bahjat Suleiman will hold a rare press conference around 0900 GMT, before the meet.

Also ahead of the conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will hold a news conference at around 1130 GMT, after British Foreign Secretary William Hague meets with reporters at 0700 GMT.

Earlier this month the United States and Russia, which support opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, proposed a peace conference, dubbed Geneva 2, which would bring together rebels and representatives of Assad’s regime.

The U.S. official described the conference as “the most serious effort in the last two years to get the Syrian government to sit down and negotiate with the Syrian opposition.

“In my experience we haven’t seen a push that has such clear support from the Russians, from the United Nations,” he said, speaking by phone from Amman with reporters accompanying Kerry while in Oman.

A French diplomatic source told AFP the Geneva conference “comes at a time when the regime is taking the lead on the ground as its supporters are getting more and more involved.”

Jordan had announced that for the first time in the 26-month conflict, the opposition, whose chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib resigned last month, had not been invited to the Friends of Syria meeting.

But the opposition Syrian National Coalition received a last-minute invitation to meeting in Amman, and acting chief George Sabra will attend, a spokesman said.

Spokesman Soner Ahmed said "the Coalition received a late invitation and has confirmed its participation in the meeting of the Friends of the Syrian people."

"The Coalition will be represented by its interim president, George Sabra, who is now flying to Amman," he added.

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