Friends of Syria coalition wants Hezbollah and Iran to withdraw



US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace on May 22, 2013 in the Jordanian capital Amman. Backers of the Syrian uprising are meeting in Amman to discuss a US-Russian proposal for peace talks, as the brutal two-year conflict escalates close to the border with Lebanon.


Khalil Mazraawi

A coalition of countries that back the Syrian uprising met Wednesday evening in Amman to discuss US-Russia brokered peace talks.

Top diplomats from countries supporting Syrian rebels demanded Hezbollah and Iran immediately withdraw from the country.

They also insisted that any transitional government needed to have power of both the Syrian army and the executive as Assad currently does.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that if the Assad regime is unwilling to negotiate a political solution, the US and others will discuss expanding their support of the opposition, and that President Obama "intends to support the broad-based opposition and he has taken no options off the table with respect to how that support may be provided or what kind of support it might be." 

The Friends of Syria have also been pushing for a brokered peace.

The US and Russia agreed earlier this month to hold a peace conference called "Geneva 2" to end the two-year conflict. That meeting will likely be held next month, and Syrian officials have agreed to attend.

The Syrian National Coalition has also agreed to attend the peace conference. 

The negotiations before the peace talks have been complicated by rebel preconditions.

The rebels' Supreme Military Council leader Salim Idris said that the US needed to secure a "strategic military balance" between the rebels and the army.

In other words, the rebels want more heavy weapons before discussions begin.

The Friends of Syria is a US-created collective that opposes the Chinese and Russian vetoes against taking action against Syria in the UN Security Council. 

The foreign ministers of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States attendedthe gathering in Amman. 

"Today's part of a political path aimed at ending the violence and bloodshed," said Nasser Judeh, Jordan's foreign minister, alongside British Foreign Secretary William Hague before the Amman meeting.

"The humanitarian crisis underlines the urgency of reaching a political solution and a diplomatic breakthrough," Hague said.

"All the partners came here to meet this evening with the goal of putting an end to the bloodshed that has cost tens of thousands of lives," US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the meeting. "And we would call on President Assad to exhibit the same commitment to trying to find peace in his own country. That is critical." 

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius echoed Kerry's sentiments Wednesday, saying that the success of the peace conference is crucial given the string of diplomatic failures to stop the violence in Syria. 

"France is in favor of a new conference in Geneva provided that the conditions of its success are met," Fabius said. "Obviously it will be a great disappointment if a new conference was a failure and therefore there are some conditions to fulfill." 

Syria has rejected the outcome of the Jordan meeting, stating that rather than friends of Syria, the participating countries were simply "Friends of Israel."

“Those who want to end the tragedy in Syria need to stop arming and training terrorist gangs in Syria. The war on Syria is unprecedented,” said Syria's envoy Bahjat Suleiman, adding that Syria is “defending itself and will continue to fight Israel's tools in the region.” 

The news comes amid reports that the Syrian government, along with Hezbollah, has made advances on rebel-held towns.