HOLLANDE CALLS FOR SYRIA “PEACE TALKS” AT EU SUMMIT, SAYING “HE IS WAITING FOR BRITAIN TO TAKE DECISIONS” & MERKEL SAYS “ASSAD MUST BE INCLUDED” (24.09.2015)
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French President Francois Hollande has called on the international community to take part in a new conference aimed at ending the conflict in war-ravaged Syria.
"I call for a new peace conference so that all the countries who want to see peace restored in Syria can contribute," said Hollande at an emergency summit of EU leaders in Brussels focused on stemming the flow of refugees -- mostly from Syria -- who have been arriving in increasing numbers to European countries. “All those who can contribute... should get around the table.”
Two UN peace conferences were held in 2012 and 2014 with the goal of reaching a diplomatic solution to Syria’s crisis, but all have ended in acrimony over the subject of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s role in the country's future.
"Yesterday I was in London with (Prime Minster) David Cameron. As concerns Syria, we have further reinforced our cooperation, our exchanges of information and I am waiting for Britain to take decisions concerning Syria," Hollande added.
The two met at Cameron’s country residence in the UK on Tuesday and stressed “the need to revitalize the political process.”
Hollande’s comments came after an apparent change in France’s policies towards Syria. During an interview with French daily Le Figaro on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a diplomatic solution to Syria’s crisis is impossible without Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “If we require, even before negotiations start, that Assad step down, we won't get far.”
Involve Assad in talks: Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that any talks on ending the conflict in Syria should involve Assad.
"We have to speak with many actors, this includes Assad, but others as well. Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia," Merkel told a press conference in Brussels.
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria has reportedly claimed about 250,000 lives so far.
The United Nations says the militancy has displaced more than 7.6 million Syrians internally, and over four million others have fled the country to take refuge in neighboring states, including Jordan and Lebanon.
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