World powers to meet in Geneva on Syria
GENEVA, June 27 — Foreign ministers from the global powers and Middle East countries will meet in Geneva on Saturday to work out a way to end the worsening conflict in Syria and bring about a political transition.
International mediator Kofi Annan called the meeting today just as the situation in Syria took an even more serious turn, with insurgents attacking a pro-government television station in Damascus and fighting breaking out in the capital’s suburbs.
Annan, who acts as envoy for the United Nations and Arab League, said he had invited foreign ministers from the five permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — as well as the European Union, Syria’s neighbours Turkey and Iraq, and Kuwait and Qatar.
He made no mention in his statement of Iran, Syria’s main regional ally.
The United States, Britain and France had objected to any Iranian participation due to stalled talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme. They have accused Iran of helping President Bashar al-Assad’s government to commit atrocities in its campaign to crush the 16-month-old uprising against his rule.
Annan said the aim of the one-day talks was to identify measures to secure full implementation of his stalled six-point peace plan and Security Council resolutions, including an immediate halt to all violence.
“The Action Group for Syria should also agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, and agree on actions that will make these objectives a reality on the ground,” said Annan, a former UN secretary-general and Nobel peace laureate.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC television “(Assad) cannot now get back on top of the situation in Syria. His regime I think is doomed. What we don’t know is the timescale.”
A bloody collapse in Syria should be avoided, Hague said.
“(We should) try to organise a Syrian-led political transition, with the departure of Assad. We need to work together to do so. So that is what we are trying to do with Russia, China and America at the moment.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the talks. Speaking in Helsinki, Clinton said she had spoken with Annan three times in the past 24 hours.
“He has developed his own very concrete roadmap for political transition. He’s been circulating it for comments. I conveyed our support for the plan that he has put forward.
“We believe that it embodies the principles needed for any political transition in Syria that could lead to a peaceful, democratic and representative outcome reflecting the will of the Syrian people,” Clinton said.
Clinton added that any country that took part in the talks must support Annan’s transition plan and his original six-point plan, which included a cessation of hostilities and the right to protest freely.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested that a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which allows the Security Council to authorise actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention, might be necessary.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League head Nabil Elaraby have also been invited to the closed-door talks to be held at the UN European headquarters in Geneva.
Diplomats were expected to hold a preliminary meeting in the Swiss city on Friday, an Arab diplomat said. — Reuters