UK & World News
Syria: Ministers Meet Ahead Of Peace Talks
The Friends of Syria group is meeting in London to try to keep next month's proposed Syria peace conference on track.
William Hague and his counterparts from 10 other countries will discuss how to support the Syrian opposition ahead of the summit due to take place in Geneva.
Failure to agree a united front could jeopardise the chances of the conference, scheduled for Switzerland on November 23, even taking place.
Geneva II is intended to build on last year's Geneva agreement in which most parties to the conflict, including Russia, signed up to a rough road map intended to lead to peace.
Representatives of the opposition Syrian National Coalition are also expected to attend.
But one of the most prominent factions within the coalition, the Syrian National Council, has said it has no faith in negotiations with Bashar al Assad's regime and won't be part of the Geneva process.
Some of the Arab countries are also concerned about the prospects for success next month.
One Arab diplomat told Sky News: "It is unclear who will attend and it is unclear what the agenda is."
Invitations for Geneva will be issued by the United Nations and it has yet to say if the Iranians will be invited.
Nor is it clear if the Assad government will attend as it wants more clarity on how London, Paris, and Washington interpret the first Geneva agreement.
That calls for a "transitional government".
The Western powers say that means one in which Mr Assad has no future. However, Russia and the Syrian government point out that it says "by mutual consent".
Add to these problems that most of the opposition forces inside Syria no longer pay any attention to the council, and that those forces will not go to Geneva, and the prospects for peace are dim.
Mr Assad has cast doubt on the conference, brokered by the US and Russia, telling Lebanon's Al Mayadeen TV that "the factors that would help in holding it are not in place if we want it to succeed".
He added: "Who are the groups that will participate? What is their relation with the Syrian people? Do they represent the Syrian people or do they represent the country that made them?"
Foreign Secretary Mr Hague said the meeting was to "discuss preparations for the Geneva Conference, support for the Syrian National Coalition, and our efforts to achieve a political settlement to this tragic conflict".
Today's conference is to try and iron out some of those problems, then work on making Geneva II a success.