Syrian opposition says it will attend Rome talks

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The foreign-backed Syrian opposition has expressed its readiness to attend the so-called Friends of Syria conference in Rome this week.

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the president of the so-called National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, had earlier said he would boycott the 11-nation meeting.

However, in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Monday, Khatib said he changed his mind after US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague promised specific aid to his group.

“We will go and we will see if the promises are different this time,” he said.

Kerry not only made a public plea at a joint press conference in London on Monday with Hague, he also called Khatib “to encourage him to come to Rome,” a senior US official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the conversation as “good” but declined to provide further details.

“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 after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Earlier in the day, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that the government is ready to hold talks with the armed opposition groups to restore peace in the country.

“We’re ready for a dialogue with anyone who’s willing for it,” Muallem said in Moscow ahead of talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

“Even with those who carry arms. We are confident that reforms will come about not with the help of bloodshed but through dialogue,” he added.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have been killed in the violence, and several international human rights organizations say the foreign-sponsored militants have committed war crimes.
The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants fighting the Syrian government are foreign nationals.

 

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