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No Syria peace talks 'before December’

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-05

The so-called “Geneva 2” talks to find a solution to the Syria conflict will “take place no earlier than December”, Russian media quoted a diplomatic source as saying Tuesday, appearing to scupper hopes the conference would be held this month.

Planned talks in Geneva to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria will not take place until December at the earliest, Russian media quoted a source as saying on Tuesday following a meeting of US, Russian and UN diplomats.

"The conference will take place no earlier than December," a source close to Tuesday’s talks told Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency. No further information was provided by the news report.

The so-called “Geneva 2” peace talks on the 31-month Syria crisis were proposed in May during a meeting in Moscow between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry with the intention of establishing a transitional governing body in Syria with full executive powers.

Lavrov had said at the time that he hoped the conference could take place by the end of May. Kerry said he thought a June date was more realistic.

However, disagreements over who should be represented at the talks have led to repeated delays, with Russia calling for Iran to be given a place around the negotiating table.

Some powerful rebel groups have also made Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power a condition for their attendance - a stance rejected by both Damascus and Moscow.

Most recently, November 23 had been tentatively put forward as a possible date for the talks to begin, but this was never confirmed by the UN.

On Tuesday, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov in Geneva in an effort to find solutions to some of the obstacles to Geneva 2.

A UN source told Reuters that that even if a conference date could not be announced immediately, the intention was to “at least see that all the parties and groups are ready for a date”.

The source said that any date for the conference would be formally set by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, probably after the Syrian opposition meets on November 9.

“Mr Brahimi would like to see the conference this year, he doesn’t want to see it postponed,” the source said.

Russia: Iran must be included in talks

Hours earlier, Russia had reiterated its stance that Iran must be invited to any such peace talks, after the main Syrian political opposition leader said his coalition would not attend if Tehran took part.

Foreign Minister Lavrov also rejected Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba’s demand for a time-frame for Assad to quit, ruling out any such preconditions for Geneva 2.

“All those with influence on the situation must certainly be invited,” Lavrov told a news conference. “This includes not only Arab countries, but also Iran.”

However, he indicated that Iran and other outside players need only be represented at the outset of the conference proposed by the United States and Russia.

“At subsequent stages the Syrians - as conceived by the Russian-American duet and supported by everyone else - will talk to each other directly with mediation by... Brahimi and his team,” Lavrov said.

Saudi Arabia and the United States oppose any invitation for Iran, which along with Russia, is a firm ally of Assad.

The Syrian regime, meanwhile, remains resolute that Assad will not be stepping down before Geneva 2 despite opposition demands.

“Syria - the state, the nation and the people - will remain and... Assad will be president of this country all the time they are dreaming that he isn’t,” the Syrian state news agency quoted Information Minister Omran Zoabi as saying on Monday night.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-11-05

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