Syria crisis: Meeting of the 'London 11' fails to deliver hope of breakthrough - Middle East - World - The Independent

Syria crisis: Meeting of the 'London 11' fails to deliver hope of breakthrough

Saudis withdraw co-operation from the West and opposition warns there are no guarantees it will turn up for talks

Diplomatic Correspondent

A key meeting in London that was supposed to pave the way for peace to break out in Syria ended with one of the main backers of the rebels, the Saudis, declaring it will withdraw cooperation with the West and the main opposition group warning there are no guarantees it will turn up for projected talks with Bashar al-Assad's regime.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and William Hague, the British foreign secretary, made strenuous pleas to the opposition to turn up to the summit planned in Geneva next month which is also being backed by Russia. But there appeared to be doubts among its leaders that they will be able to get enough votes to do so at a forthcoming conference of their coalition of disparate groups.

The proceedings in London took place in the shadow of a furious missive from Saudi Arabia charging the Obama administration of failing the rebels and criticising its attempted rapprochement with Iran, a bitter regional rival, as well as the stance over the Arab Spring and Palestine.

Confusion, meanwhile, surrounded the position of the Syrian opposition which attended today's London talks. They had not set a pre-condition of Bashar al-Assad's removal from power to attend the Geneva meeting, both Mr Kerry and Mr Hague assured a press conference this afternoon.

But the president of the opposition coalition, Ahmed Jarba, taking the podium immediately afterwards, was adamant: "The Sultan must leave. Geneva cannot succeed and we cannot take part if it allows Assad to gain more time to spill the blood of our people while the world looks on. We shall be traitors to our people if we let this happen."

Some of the journalists in the room who had not heard the full sentence thought that Mr Jarba was demanding that Prince Bandar Bin Sultan should resign. This was clarified, but there was further confusion when he later seemed to say that the opposition will be going to Geneva after all even if President Assad remains in power.

The issue will be decided by a vote during a conference of the coalition in Istanbul early next month; opposition officials were of the view that there was no certainty that the majority would support attending Geneva. One of them, Salim al-Meslet, said : " We have asked the ministers [of states attending the London talks] to give us something to take to the vote, try to get food and medicine through to those suffering, get the Russians to get Assad free women and children in jail, that will help on Geneva."

However a communique was issued jointly by the Syrian and 11 countries supporting them setting out the broad basis for political transition. Mr Hague acknowledged that the Geneva process faced "immense difficulties", but warned that unless moderate forces were supported, the country would be left at the mercy of either Assad or extremist jihadists who have latched onto the conflict. "The alternative is a protracted conflict in which neither side will be able to achieve a military victory over the other."

Speaking about Saudi anger, the British foreign secretary pointed out that the country's foreign minister, Prince Saudi al-Faisal, had signed the joint communique and had, indeed, sat next to Mr Kerry at lunch.

Mr Kerry said the Saudis were "obviously disappointed" that the threatened military strike on the regime by the US after the use of chemical weapons at Ghouta did not take place. He added that President Obama had asked to him to hold talk to Saudi officials, which he described as "very, very constructive and I am convinced we are on the same page as we are proceeding forward."

Video: Bomb blast by Syrian rebels

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

NVQ Assessor Level 2 & 3 Sport Development

£19200 - £26880 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: In NVQ Ass...

Secondary supply teachers required in Newmarket

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week