West in effort to unite split Syrian opposition

West in effort to unite split Syrian opposition

West in effort to unite split Syrian opposition

US President Obama (C), British PM Cameron (R) and French President Hollande meet at a G-8 summit in Camp David. AP photo

The United States, Britain, France and Italy have stepped up to make another effort to save war-torn Syria, discussing how to bolster the divided opposition and the threat that the al-Assad regime may use chemical weapons.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama warned Aug. 22 that they would be forced to consider a new course of action if Syria threatens to use chemical weapons against rebels. The two leaders agreed during a telephone call that “the use or threat of chemical weapons was completely unacceptable and would force them to revisit their approach so far,” Cameron’s Downing Street office said.

The comments echoed those by Obama earlier in the week, when he said he would change his thinking on intervention if Syria used chemical weapons. “Both said that they wanted to see a credible opposition and hoped that the opposition would use their upcoming meeting in Cairo to show real unity of purpose and coherence in working towards transition.”

The White House said Obama conveyed to Cameron his concern about the “increasingly dire” humanitarian situation in Syria, and called for more countries to contribute to humanitarian appeals from the United Nations. “The two leaders exchanged views on ways the international community can assist those displaced by the conflict,” and “apply pressure” on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it added.

Cameron spoke separately to French President François Hollande, in a bid to ensure that Syria remained the focus of international attention. Cameron and Hollande “agreed that the refugee situation was deeply troubling,” with the French leader stressing that the crisis would be the focus of France’s U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting at the end of the month, Downing Street said. The Syrian National Council, Syria’s main opposition group, recently met with Hollande in Paris and announced that they are planning the formation of a transitional government.

Meeting in Italy

Italy also joined the discussion of post-al-Assad scenarios, saying it will host international talks next week at the level of senior officials from like-minded countries on the future of Syria after al-Assad leaves power. Italy “has proposed informal talks in Rome in the next few days with a group of allies and partner countries to discuss international roles and responsibilities in Syria after al-Assad,” Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi wrote in La Repubblica daily, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The talks will concern aspects of security, institution building, economic reconstruction and humanitarian aspects,” the minister said. The Foreign Ministry said the meeting “will be held next week in Rome at a level of senior officials from like-minded countries.” Terzi said that the downfall of al-Assad was “inevitable” and the international community had “a moral duty” to support the democratic process.

He also warned that “an incomplete democratic transition would condemn Syria to prolonged instability.
This instability would also increase “the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as Syria holds the biggest arsenal of chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East,” he said.