Kerry′s call helps convince opposition to attend Syria talks | News | DW | 25.02.2013
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Kerry's call helps convince opposition to attend Syria talks

Syria's opposition is to attend an international conference in Rome after having earlier pledged to boycott the talks. This followed an appeal from the US secretary of state, who is on his first official visit to Europe.

The head of the Syrian National Coalition said on Monday that the country's main opposition grouping would attend this week's Friends of Syria conference in the Italian capital.

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said in a statement posted on his Facebook page that the change of heart came after US Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, William Hague had "promised specific aid to alleviate the suffering of our people."

The statement added that the US and British top diplomats' "complete rejection of the savagery carried out by the regime" of President Bashar Assad was also a key factor in the decision.

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"We are determined that the Syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind, wondering where the support is, if it is coming," Kerry told reporters following talks with Hague and British Prime Minister David Cameron. "We are not going to let the Syrian opposition not have its ability to have its voice properly heard in this process," he added.

The British foreign secretary indicated that the West was determined to do more to help the opposition in its efforts.

"In the face of such murder and threat of instability, our policy cannot stay static as the weeks go by," Hague said. "We must significantly increase support for the Syrian opposition. We are preparing to do just that."

In addition to the public call for the Syrian opposition to attend the Rome conference, Kerry also made a personal phone call to Khatib to "encourage him to come to Rome," an unnamed US official cited by the Associated Press said.

This helped reverse a decision the National Coalition had announced last weekend, in which it said it would not attend the latest Friends of Syria conference over what it described as the "international silence" over "crimes committed against the Syrian people."

On to Berlin

Kerry, who also used his talks with Cameron and Hague to discuss proposed free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union, has since arrived in Berlin for the next stop on his European tour.

On Tuesday, he is to meet with Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel. Among their topics of discussion were expected to be the withdrawal of NATO combat troops from Afghanistan, as well as the proposed trans-Atlantic free trade agreement.

While in Berlin, Kerry is also scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is to travel to the German capital for talks with his US counterpart on the Syrian conflict.

pfd/lw (dpa, AFP, AP)

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