JNN 14 Jan 2014 New York : U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and top envoys from 10 other countries are raising the pressure on Syria’s main opposition group to attend peace talks that would bring it face-to-face with the Syrian government, AP reported.
The two-day meeting begins Sunday in Paris, just a week before the scheduled talks in Geneva.
The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition is nearing collapse, hampered by infighting, international pressure and disagreement over whether to negotiate with Syria’s president, Bashar Assad.
The moderate rebels find themselves battling on two fronts — against al-Qaida linked militants on one side and Assad’s forces on another. But despite low expectations for the Geneva peace conference, diplomats say it is the only chance of ending fighting that has killed more than 130,000 people.
Kerry on Sunday led an international bid to drag Syria’s divided opposition into meaningful peace negotiations with President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The Swiss talks have been organized in an attempt to revive a long-stalled framework for peace involving a cessation of hostilities and the creation of a national transitional government that could involve figures from the current regime and the opposition.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was vital the opposition came to the negotiating table.
“I know that it is not an easy decision for the opposition in Syria,” he said. “We want to work to convince them today in Paris and remove the last obstacles that may arise.
“We must get down to work in earnest. I fear that we will not be successful if we do not manage to include the opposition in these talks.”
The balance of power in the conflict in Syria appears to have tipped in Assad’s favor over the last week as deadly clashes have erupted between the mainstream opposition and an al Qaeda-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with which they were previously allied.
Skirmishes have left an estimated 500 people dead in a matter of days and ISIL is threatening to abandon frontline positions in the area around Syria’s second city, Aleppo.