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Friends of Syria: No Reconstruction Before Political Solution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian children stockpile bread during the siege of Aleppo (AFP)

New York– The Friends of Syria group, which includes Arab, Gulf and Western countries, underlined the importance of reaching a political solution to the crisis before launching any reconstruction campaigns in the war-torn country.

The group convened on Monday evening on the sidelines of UN General Assembly session in New York.

In remarks at the end of the meeting, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “We believe that the only way forward is to get a political process going and to make it clear to the Iranians, Russians and Assad regime that we, the like-minded group, will not support the reconstruction of Syria until there is such a political process and that means, as Resolution 2254 says, to a transition away from Assad.”

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that some of the countries participating in the meeting have suggested the holding of elections, with the participation of Syrians living abroad. Those are estimated at 7 million refugees.

The members have also stressed the importance of encouraging the Syrian opposition to reach consensus and a unified position.

Monday’s ministerial debate on Syria was held in the presence of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Turkey, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, as well as EU External Affairs Commissioner Federica Mogherini and UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, said all those at the meeting agreed that “there has got to be a political process if there is to be any international participation in the reconstruction of Syria.”

“The regime and the regime supporters cannot declare a victory solely based on a map and colors of positions on the ground,” Satterfield said.

“The reconstruction of Syria depends very much on that credible political process. That political process is focused on Geneva and the role of the United Nations,” he added.

On the other hand, France warned that the current situation in Syria would lead to the permanent disintegration of the country and open doors to militant groups if the permanent members of the Security Council did not take a united position to reach a peaceful solution.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in New York he would hold a meeting with the four other permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, Russia and the United States — on Thursday to persuade them to create a contact group to give new impetus to end the seven-year conflict.