Pressure mounts on Syria opposition to join talks

Western and Arab diplomats on Monday will try to build support for proposed Syrian peace talks next month imperilled by rifts among the opposition, which may refuse to attend.

AFP| Last Updated: Oct 21, 2013, 20:18 PM IST

Damascus: Western and Arab diplomats on Monday will try to build support for proposed Syrian peace talks next month imperilled by rifts among the opposition, which may refuse to attend.

Government warplanes meanwhile launched strikes on areas southeast of Damascus today after rebels seized key regime positions there, while troops pressed their onslaught on the besieged suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham, a watchdog said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet Arab League representatives in Paris later today ahead of tomorrow`s meeting of the opposition and its Western and Arab backers.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned yesterday that the Geneva 2 peace talks, aimed at creating a transitional government and ending nearly three years of fighting, cannot be held without the attendance of a "credible opposition" to President Bashar al-Assad.

"There is an agreement to attempt to hold Geneva 2 in November, but the date has not been officially set," Brahimi said yesterday after meeting the head of the Arab League in Cairo.

"We hope it will take place in November."

Brahimi spoke on the first leg of a Middle East tour aimed at drumming up support for the initiative to end the 31-month conflict that has killed more than 115,000 people and displaced millions more.

The veteran troubleshooter was in Iraq today where according to a foreign ministry official he was holding talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Brahimi has said he will also travel to Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Syria and then Geneva for talks with Russian and US representatives.

Al-Watan, a pro-government newspaper, said Brahimi would visit Syria next week, where he came under heavy criticism from the regime for suggesting a transitional government following his last visit in 2012.

Al-Watan said Damascus, which has accused Brahimi of tilting towards the rebels, was ready to welcome him as long as "he works as a mediator, not as a party in the international conflict over Syria".