Friends of Syria group set to meet in London

Friends of Syria group set to meet in London

PanARMENIAN.Net - Foreign ministers from 11 Western and Arab nations are due to meet in London Thursday, May 15,to discuss new ways of supporting the Syrian opposition, BBC News reports.

The Friends of Syria group will also discuss the country's dire humanitarian situation. US Secretary of State John Kerry is among those attending.

The meeting comes days after UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi stepped down over lack of progress in ending the crisis.

The Friends of Syria group is made up of Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the U.S. It was set up in 2012 in response to moves by Russia and China to block UN resolutions on Syria.

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said it was "the right time" for countries who support a democratic future for Syria to come together.

"Foreign ministers will discuss how best to significantly step-up our support to the Syrian opposition, make urgent progress on improving the deteriorating humanitarian crisis and reinvigorate a political process that has stalled due to regime intransigence," the spokesman said.

Thursday's meeting is the first time the group has met since January.

The BBC says that since then, peace talks in Geneva have collapsed; Brahimi has stepped down and rebel forces inside Syria have lost ground to President Bashar al-Assad.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the "hopelessly divided" international community was partly to blame for leaving Brahimi battling "almost impossible odds" in brokering a peace deal.

Efforts to reconvene peace talks were dealt a fresh blow when Assad announced presidential elections for June 3. He is seeking a third seven-year term.

The idea was dismissed by the U.S. as "a parody of democracy" and Ban said it could torpedo efforts to broker a peace deal.

The Syrian government recently passed a new law stipulating that all candidates must have lived in Syria for the past 10 years.

Most opposition leaders have fled the country, so are in effect barred from standing.

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