April 20

The next meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People core group, which brings together Western and Arab nations that support the Syrian opposition, has been scheduled to be held in İstanbul on April 20, after several exchanges Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made with his foreign counterparts.

During his visit to Bishkek on Wednesday accompanying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Davutoglu spoke with his foreign counterparts in order to confirm the location and date for the upcoming group meeting, diplomatic sources say. The holding of the meeting came to the agenda during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Turkey on Sunday.

On Wednesday, Davutoglu first spoke with his Egyptian and Qatari interlocutors for the confirmation of the meeting. Returning to Ankara in the evening, Davutoglu held another talk with Kerry on the subject. After the conversation, diplomatic sources noted that the Turkish minister and Kerry came to an agreement to hold the meeting in İstanbul on April 20.

During the phone meeting, Kerry also said he would attend to the core group meeting, which he stated would constitute an important milestone to determining the required steps to be taken for Syria crisis, sources also noted.

With his planned visit to Turkey for the meeting, Kerry will have visited the country three times in two months. The secretary’s most recent visit to Turkey was last Sunday, during which met for talks with top Turkish officials to discuss regional and international issues involving countries such as Israel, Syria, Iraq and Cyprus. Kerry also made another visit to Turkey in early March.

The Friends of the Syrian People group, which was formed outside the framework of the UN Security Council, which has been deadlocked on the Syrian question due to a failure to devise a resolution condemning the Syrian regime, has held a number of summits hosted by various member countries starting from last year.

Russia and China has vetoed several UN Security Council resolutions that threaten Syrian authorities with sanctions if they did not stop using heavy weapons against the uprising I the country and withdraw troops from towns and cities across the country.

FM talks with Iranian counterpart

Davutoglu was also engaged in intense telephone diplomacy on Wednesday.

The minister spoke with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, later on Wednesday, sending condolences to Iranians killed in Tuesday’s earthquake. Davutoglu stated Turkey’s readiness to provide any kind of aid required for the recovery.

A magnitude-6.3 quake struck southern Iran on Tuesday, killing at least 37 people and injuring around 850 more, Iranian media outlets reported.

Salehi, thanking to Davutoglu in turn, shared information on the results of the last week’s nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany, in Almaty province.

The P5+1 group and Iran met recently in Almaty last weekend to discuss Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, but failed to arrive at an agreement that would end the decade-old dispute.

Iran’s critics accuse it of covertly seeking the means to produce nuclear bombs, while the Tehran maintains that it is only refining uranium to power a planned network of nuclear energy plants and for medical purposes.

The core group of the “Friends of Syria” will meet next week in Istanbul and US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend, a senior US State Department official said Wednesday.

“The secretary will be attending the next core group meeting in Istanbul on Saturday the 20th,” the official said, asking not to be identified.

But the official, speaking in London where Kerry is meeting G8 foreign ministers, did not immediately give further details.

The “Friends of Syria”, comprising the United States, European and Arab countries opposed to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, held their last major meeting in Rome in February.

Syrian opposition leaders met with Kerry on the sidelines of the G8 talks where they renewed appeals to be supplied with arms without going into specifics, although Kerry “didn’t promise anything,” a second State Department official said, also asking not to be identified.

So far the United States has refused to arm the rebels, fearing the weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

“We are always considering a variety of options. We are going to continue to aid the opposition, working with them in terms of what they need, in terms of what we’re willing to provide,” the official said.

Wednesday’s talks had focused on ways of changing Assad’s calculations about the outcome of the conflict which is now in its third year and has cost some 70,000 lives, according to the UN.

“Kerry talked about ways that we can make sure that we change President Assad’s calculation. He talked about the need for us and the core group to figure out ways that we can be more effectively aiding the opposition,” the US official said.

“We need to have this continuing conversation which is why we are going back to Istanbul, so we can push things forward”.

But he said the lunch with six Syrian opposition leaders including new prime minister Ghassan Hitto and hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague was “a good, substantive discussion”.

All sides emphasised “the importance of working together, the importance of them getting themselves more organised, which they said they were in the process of doing”.

Earlier another American official said Washington was mulling ways to step up support for the Syrian opposition.

“The United States every single day thinks about what more we can do to help bring this horrible situation to an end,” the official said, asking not to be identified.

Istanbul is preparing to host the two-day 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit next Thursday and Friday. According to a statement from the president's...


Istanbul is preparing to host the two-day 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit next Thursday and Friday. According to a statement from the president's...