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EU urges Syria opposition to attend Geneva peace talks

21 October 2013, 18:58 CET
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(LUXEMBOURG) - European Union foreign ministers on Monday urged Syria's wary opposition to rally behind a proposed peace conference in Switzerland.

"The EU calls on the opposition to come together and participate actively at the conference and encourages the National Coalition to take a leading role during negotiations," said a statement issued after talks in Luxembourg.

The ministers said the EU "stands ready to continue engaging with and to support the Coalition in these endeavours and its relations with the international community at large."

Washington and Moscow have been trying to organise the so-called "Geneva 2" peace conference -- first announced last year -- on the heels of an agreement for Syria to destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014.

But Syria's opposition has been fiercely critical of that deal -- which averted US strikes on the regime following a sarin gas attack in August that killed hundreds of people -- and at least one major faction, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has already refused to take part.

The opposition has demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down as part of any agreement, while the regime has insisted his exit is not on the table.

The National Coalition umbrella opposition group, which includes the SNC, said it had postponed internal meetings to early November, as it weighs whether to attend the proposed Geneva talks.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters that a London meeting on Tuesday of Western and Arab "Friends of Syria" opposition backers could "pave the way", amid a worsening humanitarian disaster.

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