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Britain welcomes 'difficult' Syria opposition decision

  • Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague (L) attends the launch of the Scotland analysis paper with British Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander (R) in Glasgow on January 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Saturday welcomed the "difficult" decision by Syria's deeply divided opposition to join an international peace conference next week.

"I welcome the decision by the National Coalition to participate in the Geneva II talks," Hague said in a statement.

"All who share their vision of a democratic and pluralist Syria need to join together in support.

"The National Coalition reached this difficult decision against the backdrop of continued brutal regime attacks on Syrian civilians, and the deliberate blocking of humanitarian aid."

Hague repeated that any deal agreed to end the conflict, which has killed 130,000 people since March 2011, would require the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power.

"The UN Secretary General has made clear that the aim of the talks is to agree a political transition and an end to the conflict," the foreign secretary said.

"In contrast to the National Coalition, the Syrian regime has still not agreed to this aim.

"As I have said many times, any mutually agreed settlement means that Assad can play no role in Syria's future."

The National Coalition voted at a meeting in Istanbul on Friday in favour of attending the talks, which begin on Wednesday.

Media reports suggested the United States and Britain had threatened to withdraw support from the opposition if it failed to send a delegation.

Damascus has already said it will attend, although US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the regime it could not divert the talks away from the aim of installing a new government.

 
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Summary

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Saturday welcomed the "difficult" decision by Syria's deeply divided opposition to join an international peace conference next week.

The National Coalition voted at a meeting in Istanbul on Friday in favour of attending the talks, which begin on Wednesday.

Damascus has already said it will attend, although US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the regime it could not divert the talks away from the aim of installing a new government.


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