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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Syrian opposition calls for intervention by US and EU

Chief opposition negotiator called president Trump and European Union leaders to increase pressure on Syria

The Syrian Negotiation Commission arrived in London on Tuesday aiming to find a route to resolving the situation in the country. Hassan Ammar / AP
The Syrian Negotiation Commission arrived in London on Tuesday aiming to find a route to resolving the situation in the country. Hassan Ammar / AP

Syria’s chief opposition negotiator has called on US president Donald Trump and European Union leaders to increase pressure on president Bashar Al Assad, Russia and Iran to return to talks aimed at ending the six-year civil war.

“It is time for president Trump, chancellor [Angela] Merkel and [British] prime minister [Theresa] May to say: ‘Stop’ ,” Nasr Hariri told Reuters in an interview in London.

“It is time for Trump, Merkel and May to increase pressure and bring the international community together to get a genuine and just political situation in Syria.”

Mr Hariri said that the blood of Syrian civilians would continue to be spilled unless the United States and EU powers increased pressure on president Assad and his big power allies in Moscow and Tehran.

Mr Hariri said the next round of the so-called Geneva talks on the fate of Syria would take place in late January, probably around January 24-26, in Vienna.

Mr Hariri said it was very unlikely that the opposition would attend a meeting organised by Russia in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. He said the opposition had not yet received an invite though no final decision on attendance had been made.

“We have not been invited yet,” he said. “The general mood is not to go to Sochi. My personal view is that in its current shape, it is unacceptable to attend Sochi.”

When asked about US plans to help support a 30,000-strong force dominated by the mainly Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), he said it could lead to Syria's partition potentially.

“What is the benefits of establishing such an army?” he asked. “It will open the door wide for a future struggle in the region. It could open the door to the future partition of Syria.”

Meanwhile, the British minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt welcomed the Syrian Negotiation Commission to London on Tuesday and endorsed their commitment to talks about the ongoing conflict.

Mr Burt said: “The UK continues to play a leading role in response to the tragedy in Syria. We have committed nearly £2.5 billion (Dh9.2bn) to our humanitarian response to the crisis.

“I am alarmed that in spite of commitments to de-escalation the regime and its backers continue to bomb and shell opposition areas in eastern Ghouta and Idlib. In recent weeks these regime offensives have killed hundreds of civilians, displaced tens of thousands, and destroyed hospitals and other civilian infrastructure. These attacks must stop.

“After nearly seven years of conflict and over 400,000 deaths, it is abundantly clear that only a political settlement can bring a durable end to the human suffering and the regional instability the conflict fuels.

“Along with our international partners, the UK supports the efforts of the UN-mediated Geneva process as we believe this is the best way of reaching a lasting political settlement to end the conflict. We commend the constructive engagement by Nasser Hariri and the Syrian opposition in the latest round of Geneva talks and call on the Syrian regime to likewise engage constructively and agree to direct talks.”