Foreign ministers from 11 nations that support the Syrian opposition are meeting Thursday in London, as they try to figure out how to advance a political solution to the country's crisis and get aid in the hands of those affected by years of civil war.
The meeting hosted by British Foreign Minister William Hague brings together the core of the so-called Friends of Syria. His office says the diplomats will discuss how to "significantly" increase support for those demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leave office.
International efforts to end the fighting in Syria have stalled, most notably with the failure of direct peace talks between the warring sides earlier this year.
'Syrian Opposition Seeks Diplomatic and Military Support from US' by VOA’s Kokab Farshori:
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Wednesday the U.N. chief is "disappointed" with the lack of progress.
"[It] is clear that we would be doing some soul-searching as to how we can now best help this process along, and that Member States, those who are directly involved, those who have -- who can have an influence, should also use this time to figure out how they can actually best support a political peace in Syria and bring an end to the suffering of the civilians," said Dujarric.
The Friends of Syria meeting comes as the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, prepares to leave his post at the end of the month. He mediated the peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, but could not get the two sides to agree on establishing a transitional government to lead Syria out of the crisis.
The Syrian government has rejected the idea of Assad stepping down, and he is likely to win a new term in office when the country holds a presidential election in three weeks.
Thursday's meeting involves the U.S., Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The group has repeatedly advocated for a political solution to the conflict that began in March 2011 as peaceful protests before spiraling into civil war.
A senior U.S. State Department official said ahead of the meeting that the goal of the group's efforts is to "change the realities on the ground" in order to push the government to take part in "meaningful political dialogue."
The official said opposition leader Ahmad Jarba and other coalition officials who visited Washington this week reiterated their desire for a political solution as well as their support for moderate rebel fighters.
The United States added another $27 million in aid to the opposition this month, bringing its total contribution to $287 million. Opposition allies have also given training and logistical support to rebel fighters, along with military equipment and light weapons.
Meanwhile, more than 40 people, many of them civilians, were killed by air strikes across northern Syria, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
More than three years into a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, rebels are struggling to counter government warplanes which routinely bomb military and civilian targets.
On Wednesday, 15 people were killed, including three from an emergency medical team, during five air raids in Atarib in northern Aleppo province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said early on Thursday.
Four rebel fighters were killed by air strikes in the same area, while 21 people, including women, were killed in air strikes on the Sarmada area in northwestern Idlib province, according to the anti-Assad monitoring group.
Gun battles, air strikes, car bombs, shelling and executions regularly kill over 200 people a day in Syria, where the conflict that started as a peaceful protest movement has claimed over 150,000 lives and forced millions from their homes.
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.