Islamic summit opens with calls for Syrian dialogue

Syria crisis

His foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Egypt's state news agency he believed the Syrian government was ready to negotiate with the opposition. "We are optimistic," he added after the meeting with the leaders of Turkey and Egypt.

OFFER OF TALKS

In an interview with BBC Arabic on Wednesday, opposition Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib said Iran was the real power in Damascus. Alkhatib had on Sunday offered to meet Assad's ceremonial deputy, Farouq al-Shara, for peace talks if the authorities released thousands of prisoners.

But in his interview, he said his proposal for talks with Shara had been rejected. He demanded the release of all women detainees by Sunday, or else his initiative "would have been broken", the BBC reported.

Underlining the deep regional divisions over the Syria conflict, Saudi Arabia, a key supporter of the Syrian rebels and a member of an "Islamic Quartet" formed by Mursi last August to try to broker a solution, did not attend the Syria crisis meeting in Cairo, diplomats said.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman told the summit the Syrian regime was "committing ugly crimes" against its people. He said the U.N. Security Council, which has so far been paralysed by Russian and Chinese opposition to sanctions, should act to "finalise the transition of power".

A communique drafted by OIC foreign ministers and seen by Reuters blames Assad's government for most of the slaughter and urges it to open talks on a political transition.

Diplomats said Iran had objected to the wording and it might be toned down to spread responsibility more evenly.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said the statement had to be adopted by consensus and would stress the need for dialogue and a political solution.

The draft text also urged the opposition to speed up the creation of a transitional government "to be ready to assume responsibility in full until the completion of the desired political change process".

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