Western spy agencies contact Syria for fighting terrorists

Western spy agencies contact Syria for fighting terrorists
Wed Jan 15, 2014 07:29:03

Western intelligence agencies have visited Damascus for talks on combating terrorist groups, Syria's deputy foreign minister says.

Faisal Mekdad told BBC that there was a schism between Western security officials and politicians who are pressing President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The growth of terrorist groups among militants fighting Syrian troops has caused international concern.

Syrian government officials are due to attend peace talks in Geneva next week.

However, the main opposition group, the so-called Syrian National Coalition, has still not decided whether or not to take part.

Correspondents say the growing disarray of the opposition is frustrating the West and bolstering the confidence of the Syrian government.

In a recent interview, Mekdad told BBC that many Western governments had finally understood that there was no alternative to the leadership of President Assad.

'Terror threat'

Asked if Western intelligence agencies - including British intelligence - had recently visited Damascus, he said: "I will not specify but many of them have visited Damascus, yes."

On the subject of whether Syria was getting more requests from Western countries to have their diplomats return to Damascus, he added: "Yes, there are many countries who are approaching us. Of course some are waiting for Geneva, some are saying we are exploring the possibilities, some are saying we want to co-operate on security measures because those terrorists they are sending from Western Europe into Turkey, into Syria, have become a real threat to them."

However, the BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet said informed sources had confirmed meetings between Western and Syrian intelligence officials.

The growing numbers of foreign terrorists from Europe means there are common concerns, she says, but it is not clear how far the West is prepared to make common cause with a regime it holds responsible for the Syrian civil war.

An official from the Syrian National Coalition recently said the US and Britain had warned they would rethink their support if the group failed to join the peace talks.

Syria donor conference

Meanwhile, a donor conference to raise funds for the humanitarian crisis in Syria is due to take place in Kuwait City on Wednesday.

The UN says it is asking for $6.5 billion over the coming year for Syria, its biggest ever funding request for a single crisis.

It is believed that more than nine million Syrians have been displaced by the unrest that began nearly three years ago.

Refugee camps outside Syria's borders are barely coping and reports from some besieged communities inside the country have warned of imminent starvation.

The UN says more than 100,000 people have died since the uprising began.


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