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MIDEAST > ‘Friends of Syria’ meet with al-Nusra worries

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

With the West worried about extremists in Syria ahead of the Friends of Syria meet, Ankara is expected to call for decisive action against Damascus

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Syrian rebels from al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra is seen as they sit on a truck full of ammunition in Idlib. AP photo

Syrian rebels from al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra is seen as they sit on a truck full of ammunition in Idlib. AP photo

Sevil Erkuş Sevil Erkuş sevil.kucukkosum@hdn.com.tr

Western concerns about extremist groups fighting in Syria, particularly the al-Nusra Front, are likely to dominate the agenda of the Friends of the Syrian People core group meeting in Istanbul on April 20, which is set to draw several foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Foreign ministers or high-level officials from the Friends’ core group of 11 countries are all expected to attend the meeting. Syrian National Coalition head Mouaz al-Khatib will deliver a speech to the group in which he is expected to affirm that the Syrian opposition does not cooperate with the extremist al-Nusra.

Al-Khatib, however, is expected to add that the international community should act immediately to end the Syrian crisis if it is so concerned about extremist groups’ influence in the conflict-hit country.

Turkey will also underline the need for the world to take action forthwith to effect political transition in Syria, in order to prevent al-Nusra from gaining leverage on the ground. In talks with Western powers, Ankara has stressed that the Syrian crisis aggravates extremist groups in Syria, allowing them to grow stronger as the violence continues.

“As long as the international community fails to act, these groups will find leverage in Syria,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also said he had cited the “cause and effect” relation about the presence of al-Nusra in Syria during his talks with Western allies.

'Assad suppression did not begin due to Nusra'

“[President Bashar] Al-Assad’s suppression did not begin due to al-Nusra. Al-Nusra and other groups found a place [in Syria] because of the chaos that erupted over the suppression of al-Assad,” Davutoğlu said in a televised interview late on April 18, adding that if the risk of extremism would grow the longer the crisis continued.

The “stagnancy” of the international community will not be a solution to the danger posed by extremist groups in Syria, the minister said, adding that the only remedy was to form an administration in the country that reflects the will of the Syrian people as soon as possible.

The international community has to send clear and concrete messages to Syria, such as through the establishment of humanitarian corridors and the formation of a war crimes probe, according to Davutoğlu. “On [April 20] we will ask why the international community remains silent,” he said, adding that every meeting Turkey held aimed to mobilize other countries to act for Syria.

Foreign ministers and diplomats from the 11 core Friends’ members of the United States, Britain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Germany and France – in addition to host Turkey – are all expected to attend the meeting. The core group held its first meeting in Rome in February 2013. The need to convene the second meeting was decided when Kerry was in Turkey at the beginning of April.

April/20/2013

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