Kerry urges Syrian opposition to reconsider boycott of Rome talks

Secretary of State John Kerry said continued violence in Syria represented further evidence it was time for the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to relinquish his post. (AFP)

 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged the Syrian opposition to reconsider their threat to boycott talks with foreign powers due to take place in Rome this week.

“I would urge the Syrian opposition to join us as a matter of practicality and of informing us,” Kerry said in a news conference in London, promising the rebels that “we are coming to Rome to make a decision on next steps.”

On a trip to Europe and the Middle East, Kerry held a press conference with Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague and Prime Minister David Cameron which focused on Syria’s bloodbath.

Kerry said continued violence in Syria represented further evidence it was time for the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to relinquish his post. Kerry also condemned the most recent hostilities in the country and the situation of Syrian civilians.

U.S. officials were trying to persuade the Syrian opposition to reconsider its threat to boycott an international meeting in Rome on Thursday.

The Syrian National Council said it will pull out of the 11-nation Friends of Syria talks in protest at the international community's inability to halt the bloodshed.

Kerry is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Berlin on Tuesday and is expected to push Moscow to put pressure on the Syrian regime to allow a “political transition.”

Lavrov held talks in Moscow on Monday with President Bashar al-Assad's foreign minister, who said the Syrian regime was ready for dialogue with the opposition fighters and anyone who favors this, the first such offer by a top Syrian official.

Russia is one of the few major powers who still maintain ties with Assad's regime.

The Free Syrian Army chief of staff Idriss spoke to Al-Arabiya after this groundbreaking statement.

“Muallem wants us to sit with him at the negotiating table... I am not going to sit with him or with any other member of his clique before all the killing stops, or before the army withdraws from the cities,” said Idriss.

Furthermore, Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said the Syrian opposition would consider participating in the next Friends of Syria meeting after receiving “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,” he told reporters in Cairo.

The Syrian revolution will mark its 2-year anniversary in two weeks, as international efforts to reach a solution increase as Syria's conflict spirals into chaos. The U.N. says the battle for power in the country has killed some 70,000 people.

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Last Update: Monday, 25 February 2013 KSA 21:31 - GMT 18:31
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