UK & World News
Foreign Ministers 'Fully United' On Syria
A group of Western states and Arab powers have agreed to put their "united and collective weight" behind calls for a UN-led peace process in Syria.
The Friends of Syria group, meeting in London, called on both sides in the civil war to participate in next month's peace summit in Geneva.
It also pledged its continued support to the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), an umbrella group of moderate armed forces trying to overthrow Bashar al Assad.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the group was not making it a precondition of the talks next month that Assad can have no part in Syria's political future.
But he made it clear he does not expect him to play any role in a transitional administration because the SNC would never agree to his participation.
"The only sustainable way to end this conflict and the suffering of innocent Syrian civilians is through a political transition in Syria," he said.
"The purpose of our meeting today has been to send a signal of our resolve, unity and determination in bringing that about."
He condemned the Assad regime for "laying siege" to the Syrian people and "presiding over a humanitarian catastrophe".
And he said the Government was using tanks, torture and scud missiles as it continued its "record of utter abuse and suppression".
Mr Hague also revealed that Britain would unveil more support for the Syrian opposition before the summit in Switzerland in November.
He described it as "substantial non-lethal support" which is likely to include communication, medical and logistics equipment.
"It will help them to save lives on the ground," he said.
The Friends of Syria group includes the British foreign minister and those of 10 other countries.
Failure to have agreed a united front could have jeopardised the chances of the Geneva conference, due on November 23, from taking place.
Calling Geneva II, it is intended to build on last year's Geneva agreement where most countries including Russia signed up to a rough road map intended to bring peace.
Mr Hague said the countries had agreed to put its "united and collective weight" behind the Geneva II process, which looks to create a transitional governing body.
He insisted this would offer the Syrian people "the best hope to improve their lives" and urged the Syrian National Coalition to fully commit to it.
However, Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba was reportedly set to tell Western and Arab allies he would only attend talks aimed at removing Assad from power.
According to the text of a speech he was due to give at the London meeting, he was due to warn the opposition would otherwise lose credibility.
The address, seen by Reuters, says: "Geneva cannot succeed and we cannot take part if it allows Assad to gain more time to spill the blood of our people while the world looks on."