Wed, Jan 08, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Syria must seek future without al-Assad: Turkish PM

AFP, TOKYO

A UN-hosted peace conference on Syria must work to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power because of his culpability for tens of thousands of deaths, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in Tokyo yesterday.

“In Geneva 2, we must make sure that ... all the measures will not fail ... so that we can [bring] in an era without Bashar al-Assad,” he said, referring to peace talks planned later this month in Switzerland.

The Syrian conflict is estimated to have claimed more than 130,000 lives, and has forced millions more to flee their homes.

“A person who has allowed that to happen still remaining at the top of the country cannot be accepted,” Erdogan said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has started sending out invitations to the so-called Geneva 2 peace talks, but al-Assad’s key ally, Iran, was not on the first list, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

That could help pave the way for the opposition National Coalition, which has repeatedly stipulated that Iran must not be invited, to participate.

The 30 countries invited to the Geneva talks include Saudi Arabia, a major backer of the Syrian opposition, the five UN Security Council permanent members, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.

Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida is also expected to attend.

“In the Geneva 1 there were several issues that were taken up and in the Geneva 2 we will make sure that these will not fail... It is very important that Japan takes part in this,” Erdogan said.

The Coalition, which re-elected Ahmad Jarba as its leader on Sunday, was to discuss yesterday whether to attend the talks, although a key group — the Syrian National Council — has already announced a boycott.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are to meet on Monday in a bid to decide Iran’s role in ending the nearly three-year-old war, Haq said.

Erdogan is on a three-day visit to Japan. He was speaking at lecture hosted by the Nikkei Shimbun and the Turkish embassy in Tokyo.

In related news, Syrian activists say a government airstrike on Monday killed 10 civilians in a rebel-held town in the north.

The Aleppo Media Center and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights yesterday said that the dead in the strike on the town of Bzaa in Aleppo Province included children.

Additional reporting by AP

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