Britain holds first face-to-face talks with Islamists fighting Assad
As secular groups lose control of opposition, western allies reach out to hardliners in hope they can find common cause
Britain and its western allies have held their first face-to-face talks with Islamist factions fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, including militant groups demanding a hardline Sharia state, as the secular forces they previously backed lose ground.
The meeting was held in the Turkish capital, Ankara, officials said, as the western alliance grows increasingly alarmed by the strength of jihadist, al-Qaeda-linked factions that now dominate parts of rebel-held territory.
The western alliance is hoping that non al-Qaeda Islamist groups will form a common cause with the secular Free Syrian Army and the western-backed Syrian National Coalition, despite their deep ideological differences. However, they have previously refused to back several of these Islamist groups for fear that arms sent to moderate groups will just leak to the extremists.