France to host Saudi, Qatar, UAE, Turkey FMs for Syria talks

Sunday 01/05/2016
Intense diplomatic push

PARIS - France will host talks next week with the Saudi, Qatari, Turkish and UAE foreign ministers on the breakdown in the Syrian peace process, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Wednesday.

Other top diplomats from "countries that think negotiations should resume at all costs" may also attend the Monday meeting, Le Foll said, without naming them.

He was speaking after a cabinet meeting in which French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was concerned over the breakdown in negotiations following a surge of violence in the northern city of Aleppo that has threatened a wider two-month ceasefire in the war-torn country.

Ayrault voiced concern over the "halt in the negotiating process" after the violence in Aleppo, where fighting continued overnight Tuesday, Le Foll said.

France supports "all initiatives to be taken towards a resumption of negotiations," he added, according to Le Foll.

Speaking to reporters later, Ayrault reiterated France's call for the 17-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to hold urgent ministerial-level talks.

Paris has so far been unable to persuade either of the ISSG's co-presidents, the United States and Russia, to organise such a meeting, he said.

"That's why I will invite what we call 'like-minded' (countries supporting the Syrian opposition) to meet in Paris for a strong initiative to get these deadly bombings to stop, for humanitarian aid to be distributed effectively and so we can resume the path to a political solution," he said.

Meanwhile talks were set to take place later Wednesday in Berlin between Ayrault, his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura and Riad Hijab, coordinator for the opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee.

The UN Security Council was to convene later Wednesday in New York for an urgent meeting to discuss the Aleppo crisis demanded by Paris and London.