Arab League Backs Syria Peace Talks, Urges Opposition to Go
Damascus – Arab states formally endorsed proposed peace talks to end the Syrian civil war that have been delayed by disputes between world powers and divisions among the opposition. A final communiqué after an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Sunday called on the opposition swiftly to form a delegation under the leadership of the mainstream Syrian National Coalition, to attend the “Geneva 2” talks.
The Arab League’s position indicated Gulf rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia – who have backed different rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad – had put their differences aside to urge opposition chief Ahmad Jarba to head to Geneva. But even with regional diplomatic weight thrown behind the talks, it is unclear when they will go ahead and what they can achieve. The mainly exiled political opposition has limited clout over rebel fighters on the ground, who include al Qaeda-linked brigades.
The Geneva talks are meant to bring Syria’s warring sides to the negotiating table, but many disputes still remain including the issue of whether Iran, Assad’s biggest regional supporter, should attend. Jarba, who is backed by Iran’s foe Saudi Arabia, told Arab foreign ministers the opposition coalition would not attend if Iran was there. He also said there had to be a clear time frame for Assad to leave power, and called for more weapons to be delivered to rebels fighting Assad.
The growing influence of radical Islamist fighters and divisions among rebel forces have made Western powers reluctant to intervene directly in a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people and driven millions from their homes. (Reuters)