Syria: Hague, Kerry meet rebels to save Geneva peace summit
With peace plan under threat, 'Friends of Syria' try to shore up rebel support in London
WILLIAM HAGUE and his counterparts from 11 countries will hold talks in London today with Syria's rebels. The main topic of discussion will be the peace talks designed to end Syria's bloody civil war that are scheduled to be held in Geneva next month.
Who will attend today's meeting?
Hague will be joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry and their counterparts from nine other countries – the so-called Friends of Syria group. Those countries are: Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Representatives of The Syrian National Coalition – the dominant rebel bloc fighting the Assad regime - are also expected to attend, the BBC says.
Why is the group meeting today?
Hague says today's meeting will "discuss preparations for the Geneva Conference, support for the Syrian National Coalition and our efforts to achieve a political settlement to this tragic conflict".
Behind the foreign secretary's rhetoric there are fears that the peace talks tentatively scheduled to be held in Geneva on 23 November are in serious jeopardy. The Syrian National Council – one of the most prominent factions within the National Coalition – is refusing to attend the so-called 'Geneva II' talks and says it will quit the Coalition if it attends the talks. The Council says it has "no faith in negotiations with Bashar al Assad's regime and won't be part of the Geneva process", Sky News reports. As a result, the National Coalition has put off making a decision on whether to attend Geneva II until early next month.
An Arab diplomat told Sky News: "It is unclear who will attend [the Geneva talks] and it is unclear what the agenda is."
Is President Assad committed to the Geneva II talks?
Not really. His hand has been strengthened in recent weeks by his cooperation with a UN plan to destroy Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons and disunity in rebel ranks. Assad told Lebanon's al Mayadeen TV that no firm date had been established for the peace talks and "the factors that would help in holding it are not in place if we want it to succeed". He added: "Who are the groups that will participate? What is their relation with the Syrian people? Do they represent the Syrian people or they represent the country that made them?"
What would be discussed in Geneva if the peace talks do go ahead?
Geneva II aims to "map a path forward towards a political transition in Syria and put in place a transitional government, says the Voice of Russia. But there are plenty of stumbling blocks. Representatives of the Assad regime have repeatedly said they are willing to take part in the Geneva peace talks but not with any preconditions, such as the president's resignation. Meanwhile, rebel groups within and outside of the National Coalition insist they don't want to talk peace until Assad has been ousted from power. ·