Arab League to press Syria opposition over peace talks

AFP, Sunday 3 Nov 2013

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi says Arab foreign ministers are encouraging Syria's National Coalition to participate in the Geneva II peace conference

 Arab League
General view of Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

Arab League foreign ministers gathered in Cairo on Sunday to push the Syrian opposition to attend the proposed Geneva II peace conference.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said in comments broadcast live on Egyptian state television that the extraordinary meeting of the ministers aimed to "encourage" the Syrian opposition to attend the Geneva II talks, which are backed by the United States and Russia.

"The minsters are asked today to provide all the support to the (opposition Syrian) National Coalition in order to encourage it to participate in Geneva II," Arabi said.

Syria's opposition has refused to attend unless President Bashar al-Assad's resignation is on the table -- a demand rejected by Damascus.

Some rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime have also warned that participants would be considered traitors.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah welcomed the proposed talks, but appealed to his Arab League counterparts to "reach a common position concerning the negotiation process" so that "the Syrian regime will not be given another chance to play with the blood of the Syrian people".

UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has said that Geneva II would not be possible without the participation of the Syrian opposition.

Brahimi met Assad on Wednesday and said the Syrian government had agreed to take part in the talks and that the opposition was "trying to find a way to be represented".

The Syrian National Coalition has said it plans to meet on November 9 to decide whether to attend, but the Syrian National Council, a key member of the bloc, has threatened to quit if it does so.

Meanwhile, the head of the National Coalition, Ahmed al-Jarba, urged the League to "take a clear decision on the delivery of weapons to the Syrian rebels," adding "we are ready to provide all the guarantees that they would not fall into wrong hands".

Several countries have expressed fears that jihadists have seized weapons intended for rebels fighting Assad's forces.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 120,000 people since it broke out in March 2011, according to watchdog Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Short link: