World powers to discuss Syrian conflict

EU diplomats meet in Luxembourg as opposition coalition's Western and Arab backers try to bring it to Geneva roundtable.

    The Syrian conflict has killed more than 115,000 people since March 2011, according to activist counts [Reuters]
    The Syrian conflict has killed more than 115,000 people since March 2011, according to activist counts [Reuters]

    European Union foreign ministers have arrived in Luxembourg for talks that will have the Syria conflict high on its agenda.

    Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said on Monday that the delegates will discuss how the bloc should act on the issue of Syria's chemical weapons, political developments and humanitarian crisis.

    Western and Arab diplomats have been trying to build support for long-delayed peace talks aimed at bringing together President Bashar al-Assad's regime and Syria's opposition.

    Nabil el-Araby, the Arab League chief, said in Cairo on Sunday the talks would convene on November 23.

    However, Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, said the peace talks were in doubt unless a "credible opposition" agreed to take part.

    "There is an agreement to attempt to hold Geneva 2 in November, but the date has not been officially set," Brahimi said.

    "The final date of the conference will be announced at a later time."

    The opposition's Western and Arab backers are facing resistance from some among the opposition to attending the Geneva talks as long as Assad remains in power.

    London meeting

    Another meeting will take place in London on Tuesday between representatives of the Syrian opposition and the foreign ministers of the so-called London 11.

    The group consists of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

    The opposition National Coalition has agreed to attend the London conference, saying it would focus on "these countries' understandings about Geneva 2 and what it should result in".

    World powers are focusing on a political solution to the war in Syria after the US dropped plans for military strikes in response to a chemical attack in Damascus, which the US blames on Syrian government forces.

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

    At least 43 people were killed on Sunday alone after a suicide bomber blew up a lorry laden with explosives at an army checkpoint in Syria's central city of Hama, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the UK-based activists' network.

    It said there were 32 civilians among the dead.

    Syrian state media confirmed the report of the blast, saying that the man blew himself up inside the vehicle on a busy road on the outskirts of the government-held city.

    State news agency SANA blamed the attack on "terrorists", the term it uses to describe rebel forces trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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