Syria opposition mulls attending Rome summit

AFP , Monday 25 Feb 2013

Syria's opposition consider participating in the next Friends of Syria meeting if it receives 'specific' promises of support from key nations

"The leaders of the (Syrian National) Coalition will meet today to discuss promises made by several major countries, which have asked us to cancel the boycott and give clear and specific support for the Syrian people," Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said Monday to reporters in Cairo.

The Coalition had announced on Saturday its intention to withdraw from an 11-nation meeting of the Friends of Syria in Rome on Thursday and to cancel planned visits to Washington and Moscow in protest at the "international silence" over "crimes committed against the Syrian people."

The boycott decision came after surface-to-surface missiles slammed into a district of Aleppo, killing at least 58 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The United States on Sunday urged the opposition group to reconsider pulling out of the Rome summit, which the new Secretary of State John Kerry will attend. Khatib said on Monday that a visit to staunch Damascus ally Russia would be "postponed until we see how things progress".

"The Russian leadership has a particular moral and political responsibility because they are still supporting the regime with arms," he added.

The opposition leader accused Damascus of rejecting a call for dialogue made at the end of January, saying "permanent procrastination... has crippled the initiative." "Dialogue is not meant to buy time and procrastinate. The regime rejected even the simplest humanitarian request, which was the release of the detainees. We demanded the freeing of the women first, but the regime did nothing," Khatib said.
But he left the door open to future negotiation.

"We will always consider decisions that could stop the killing and destruction."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said on Monday during a visit to Moscow that the government was "ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue, including those who are carrying arms."

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