Friends of Syria talk peace in London

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Kerry after Syria 11
US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters after the London 11 meeting on Syria in London, United Kingdom, on October 22, 2013.

The Friends of Syria group that includes 11 core countries like the US, UK, France, and Turkey, met in London with Syrian rebels to discuss their upcoming Geneva peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

So far, Syria has cooperated with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by letting their dangerous toxic materials be destroyed, despite difficulties reaching areas in active war zones.

After US-led allies blamed al-Assad for a chemical attack near the capital city of Damascus on August 21, a US-Russia deal forced Syria to let the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) disarm their poisonous weaponry. This agreement may have prevented a US-led military strike on al-Assad’s forces, but the Syrian civil war continues to cause heavy damage to the country.

On Tuesday, the so-called “London 11” that met with Syrian rebels all agree that al-Assad must go. Peace talks between the rebels and al-Assad’s government are expected to take place late next month, but UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “We are clear that Syrian President [al-Assad] has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria.” Hague says that the Friends of Syria will support the less extreme rebels, since there are some dangerous terrorists among them. The opposition group that met with the London 11 represents the calmer bunch, and they found the talks encouraging. Hague is confident about the future peace talks in Geneva, expressing, “Geneva offers the Syrian people the best hope to improve their lives.”

US Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who’s been heavily involved in solving the Syrian crisis and was key in forming the US-Russia deal, explains, “The opposition is not saying that [al-Assad] has to go before this negotiation. That is not what they’re saying. You can’t have mutual consent if you’re not talking to anybody. You have to go, engage in the discussion and see. … The opposition has said that their condition is that the intent of this is that [al-Assad] goes.” The US agrees with this position, and Kerry added, “We believe that he has lost all legitimacy, all capacity to govern the country, and therefore it’s hard to imagine any resolution in any other way.”

Images courtesy of State Department on Flickr.