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Mar 12, 2016 9:37 AM

The Latest: Hollande wants tougher Europe role in Syria

The Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) The Latest on the conflict in Syria with U.N.-sponsored peace talks scheduled to begin on Monday (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says Europe should increase the pressure for a diplomatic solution in Syria and not stand on the sidelines.

He also said Europe shouldn't wait for a new U.S. president to be elected later this year to step up and "take its responsibility" in major world crises.

The U.S. and Russia have dominated the Syria diplomatic discussions in recent weeks, and are holding new meetings and calls today ahead of expected U.N.-sponsored indirect peace talks in Geneva on Monday.

"Europe should be present on the international arena," Hollande said after a meeting with European leaders Saturday in Paris, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding talks with European diplomats Sunday.

Hollande's comments come after President Barack Obama criticized French and European policy in Libya in an interview with The Atlantic magazine that angered some in Europe.


1:15 p.m.

Syria's foreign minister says a government delegation will head to Geneva Sunday to take part in indirect peace talks with the opposition.

Walid al-Moallem told reporters Saturday that the government team will not stay more than 24 hours in Geneva if the opposition does not show up.

The talks are scheduled to begin Monday.

The last round of indirect talks collapsed on Feb. 3 over a Russian-backed government offensive in Aleppo. The latest talks come amid a two-week partial cease-fire that has mostly held.

Al-Moallem rejected comments made by U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, who said presidential elections will be held within 18 months.

Al-Moallem said: "Neither he nor anyone else has the right to talk about presidential elections. This is an exclusive right of the Syrian people."


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