Arab, Western powers say no future role for Assad

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 09:54

London: A group of Arab and the Western countries on Tuesday agreed with Syria`s moderate opposition that President Bashar al-Assad should have no role in any future Syrian government.

The group of 11 countries - Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and the US, dubbed as Friends of Syria - during talks with the opposition discussed ways to ensure that the Geneva II conference next month must be about a political transition in Syria away from the Assad regime.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, after the talks here, said, "We are as clear as he is that Assad has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria."

Without giving details, Hague told reporters that a "number of important steps" were agreed on during the meeting with Ahmad Jarba, head of the Syrian National Coalition.

Syria`s moderate opposition should "commit itself fully" to planned peace talks, he said.

However, a defiant Assad said he intended to run for re-election in 2014.

Planned talks in Geneva next month offered Syrians the "best hope to improve their lives", Hague was quoted as saying by BBC.

"The reason we have to make sure we are supporting and dealing with the moderate opposition committed to a democratic, pluralistic, non-sectarian future for Syria is precisely because if they don`t have a role, then all the Syrian people have got left is a choice between Assad and extremists," he said.

"The longer this conflict goes on, the more sectarian it becomes. That`s why we`re making a renewed effort with Geneva II," he added.

Hague said the ministers had agreed to "put our united and collective weight behind the UN-led Geneva II process".

The Syrian opposition coalition had agreed to attend the London talks, saying it would focus on "these countries` understandings about Geneva II and what it should result in".

The Syrian National Council, a key member of the opposition`s National Coalition, has opposed the Geneva talks as long as Assad remains in power.

US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier said that the Syrian opposition would never agree to Assad staying in power.

"He has bombed and gassed people in his country...How can that man claim to rule under any legitimacy in the future?" Kerry had said after talks with Arab League officials in Paris.

Kerry today said he believed and hoped the meeting would go ahead as planned but that Western countries could not control whether all parties would attend.

Russia and Western nations are pushing for new talks between the Syrian regime and rebels on a negotiated solution to the conflict, which has killed more than 115,000 people since March 2011.

Participants at the first round of talks in June 2012 (Geneva I) had sought to end the civil war by getting Damascus and the opposition to choose a transitional government.

The National Coalition has insisted that President Assad play no role in a transitional authority, something the Syrian government has rejected.

PTI

First Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 22:58

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