I understand that the initial decision by the Syrian National Coalition not to participate in a meeting of the core group of the Friends of Syria in Rome on 28 February was later reversed and that the SNC President, Dr Al Khatib, and other SNC representatives participated fully in the Rome meeting. I am glad that Dr. Al Khatib and his colleagues ultimately chose to maintain their close engagement with the international community in support of concerted efforts to achieve the vital goal of a peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis. The Foreign Affairs Council on 18 February, which I attended, made clear the EU’s continuing strong support for the Coalition. It also reaffirmed, at Ireland’s suggestion, its invitation to the Coalition to work even more closely with the joint UN/Arab League mission of Special Envoy Brahimi in charting a peaceful way out of the current conflict.
I also welcome Dr Al Khatib’s recent indication of readiness to enter into dialogue with the Syrian regime. I hope that this may prove to be a catalyst in achieving the beginning of a genuine political process and political transition within Syria. Deputies will be aware that I have formally invited Dr. Al Khatib to travel to Dublin at a mutually convenient time to discuss the Coalition’s vision for a new, post-Assad Syria. Our Embassy in Cairo continues to be in contact with Dr. Al Khatib and the SNC, including in relation to identifying a suitable opportunity for him to travel to Ireland.