Skeptical Syrian opposition to attend Rome talks
BY MATTHEW LEE Associated Press
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
2/26/13 at 7:00 AM
Skeptical Syrian opposition leaders agreed Monday to attend an international conference in Rome after first threatening to boycott the session that was to be the centerpiece of Secretary of State John Kerry's first overseas mission in his new job.
Opposition leaders had protested what they see as inaction by other nations in the face of violence from Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
Kerry not only made a public plea at a joint news conference Monday with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, he also called Moaz Khatib, leader of the Syrian Opposition Council, "to encourage him to come to Rome," a senior U.S. official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter, described the conversation as "good" but declined to offer more detail.
Spokesman Walid al-Bunni said the council had decided to send a delegation to Rome after all.
Al-Bunni told Al-Arabiya TV the decision was made based on guarantees al-Khatib heard from western diplomats that the conference would be different and that the opposition would receive real commitments this time. "We will go and we will see if the promises are different this time," he said.
After speaking with Khatib, Kerry flew to Berlin from London, the first stop of his first trip as secretary of state - a hectic nine-country dash through Europe and the Middle East.
Kerry had also dispatched his top Syrian envoy to Cairo in hopes of convincing opposition leaders that their participation is critical to addressing questions from potential donors and securing additional aid from the U.S. and Europe.
"We are determined that the Syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind, wondering where the support is, if it is coming," Kerry told reporters in London after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron and Hague. "We are not going to let the Syrian opposition not have its ability to have its voice properly heard in this process."
Original Print Headline: Syrian opposition to send proxies
John Kerry: The secretary of state apparently made public and private appeals for the leaders of the opposition in Syria to meet in Rome.