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UK minister condemns Syria regime attacks, meets opposition negotiator

Nasser Al-Hariri, chief negotiator for Syria’s main opposition group, pictured in London. (Reuters)
LONDON: The UK’s minister for the Middle East has strongly condemned the Syrian regime’s attacks on its own people, as he met with an opposition negotiator in London.

Alistair Burt met with members of the Syrian Negotiations Commission, led by Nasser Al-Hariri, during a meeting in London on Tuesday, according to a Foreign & Commonwealth Office statement.

“The UK continues to play a leading role in response to the tragedy in Syria. We have committed nearly £2.5 billion ($3.4 billion) to our humanitarian response to the crisis,” Burt said.

“I am alarmed that in spite of commitments to de-escalation the regime and its backers continue to bomb and shell opposition areas in eastern Ghouta and Idlib. In recent weeks these regime offensives have killed hundreds of civilians, displaced tens of thousands, and destroyed hospitals and other civilian infrastructure. These attacks must stop.”

The Syrian Negotiations Commission said earlier on Tuesday that the opposition would take part in a new round of negotiations hosted by the UN in Vienna.

Billed as “UN Geneva talks, but taking place in Vienna,” the dates are as yet unconfirmed.

The UN declined to comment on the change of venue or confirm dates for the new round.

Burt said the UK backs the UN-mediated Geneva process.

“After nearly seven years of conflict and over 400,000 deaths, it is abundantly clear that only a political settlement can bring a durable end to the human suffering and the regional instability the conflict fuels,” he said.

“Along with our international partners, the UK supports the efforts of the UN-mediated Geneva process as we believe this is the best way of reaching a lasting political settlement to end the conflict. We commend the constructive engagement by Nasser Hariri and the Syrian opposition in the latest round of Geneva talks and call on the Syrian regime to likewise engage constructively and agree to direct talks.”