Russia's foreign minister says ready to discuss reducing nuclear arms
MOSCOW Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday Russia was willing to discuss reducing nuclear weapons, news agency RIA reported.
PARIS British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday Russia needed to understand that siding with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was futile as a grouping of Western and Arab states try to bring the conflict in Syria to an end.
Speaking alongside French counterpart Laurent Fabius ahead of a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris on Friday, Hague said an accord between the five U.N. Security Council members on a potential transition was a "step forward," but it was now key for international envoy Kofi Annan to ensure it was implemented.
"Russia must understand that the situation in Syria is leading towards a collapse, to terrible and grave violence," Hague told a news conference.
"Even if Assad had a free hand to commit as many crimes as he wished, he is not able to control the situation in Syria. So there is no point anybody standing by the Assad regime."
All parties to Saturday's accord hailed it as "concrete progress" towards resolving the crisis 16 months into the uprising against Assad's rule but there was no timeline for specific actions and no consensus on the key question of whether he must step down.
Both Hague and Fabius said the Annan-brokered agreement, which says a transitional governing body should be formed on the basis of mutual consent, implied Assad would not be part of any transition.
Britain and France have had led calls for Assad to step aside and warned they would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution to ensure the Geneva accord is put into place.
Fabius said that given the gravity of the situation, Paris wanted to see signs of movement "as quickly as possible" or else it would seek a resolution invoking the United Nations' "Chapter 7" provision, which allows the Security Council to authorize actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention.
Paris will host about 100 delegations and organizations in Paris on Friday, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the latest effort to ramp up pressure on Damascus.
Members of Syria's deeply divided opposition are also due to speak at the conference, although it is still not clear who will represent them and which groups will attend after persistent differences came to light earlier this week in Cairo.
Fabius said the meeting aimed to discuss extending existing sanctions to more nations as well as finding ways to provide more humanitarian aid to the Syrian population.
Asked if it was time to also concretely discuss arming insurgents given that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have indicated they were ready to supply rebel forces, Fabius said: "The question of weapons is not directly under discussion, but we know that there are some countries which are giving weapons."
"We regret it, given (that) in Geneva we agreed to not militarise (the conflict)."
(Reporting by John Irish)
PARIS A second member of the French government of Socialist President Francois Hollande changed camp on Thursday, announcing that he was backing centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron instead of the Socialist Party contender in the presidential election.