'Friends of Syria' hold London talks

15th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

US Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from Western and Arab nations met Thursday to discuss new ways of supporting the Syrian opposition.

The Friends of Syria group gathered in London just days after UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi stepped down after almost two years of fruitless efforts to end the war.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told AFP: "There is broad agreement we need to redouble our efforts in Syria.

"And whether that is providing more assistance to the opposition, addressing the humanitarian crisis or putting more pressure on the Syrian regime -- it is going to take the weight of the international community -- today is an opportunity to discuss."

The Friends of Syria group is made up of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Kerry said before leaving Washington for his latest diplomatic offensive that Brahimi "did not fail".

The top US diplomat blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "who will not negotiate, who absolutely refused to negotiate at every single session."

Kerry said Assad was "clinging to power" and described him as a leader "who is willing to drop barrel bombs on his people, to gas them, to shell artillery on innocent civilians, to starve people in their homes, and somehow claim a right to be able to run a country".

British Prime Minister David Cameron took a similar position earlier this week, reiterating that "Assad can't be part of Syria's future."

- 'Keeping pressure on regime' -

The London talks are also likely to underline the group's rejection of the presidential elections being organised by the Syrian regime on June 3.

Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba also took part after attending a week of high-level meetings in Washington in a bid to strengthen US support for the rebels in their battle against Assad.

Specifically Jarba pleaded for anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down regime aircraft which are dropping deadly barrel bombs on Syrian civilians.

"Keeping the pressure on the regime will increase the chances of finding a political solution," Jarba said in a statement.

In a sign of the deep divisions within the rebel movement, the US government officially designated two officials of rival jihadist groups in Syria as "global terrorists" Wednesday, and warned other rebel groups to stay away from both men.

The US Treasury added Saudi-born Abd Al-Rahman Muhammad Zafir Al-Dubaysi al-Juhni and Iraq native Abd Al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

The two were cited for their ties to Al-Qaeda operations in Syria, and Qaeda breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Al-Juhni is part of a group of senior Qaeda operatives in Syria formed to attack Western targets outside the country and also to mediate tensions between ISIL and the Al-Nusra Front, the local Qaeda affiliate, the Treasury said.


© 2014 AFP

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