Syria talks end without date for Geneva II

Syria talks end without date for Geneva II
Wed Jun 26, 2013 09:15:44

UN-brokered talks aimed at setting up a conference to end the war in Syria have ended with US and Russian officials failing to agree on many questions, including the dates and participants, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov says.

The two sides will return to their capitals to discuss how to take the process forward, but there was still no agreement on who would represent the Syrian opposition and whether Iran would be at the table, he told reporters after the five-hour talks on Tuesday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet next week, and further talks on the conference were expected to follow, a UN statement said.

Wendy Sherman, the US delegate at the Geneva talks, declined to comment.

Ahead of the talks, UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said the widely anticipated peace conference would probably not take place next month as hoped.

“Frankly, I doubt that the conference will take place in July,” he told reporters in Geneva.

The Algerian career diplomat began his meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.

The meeting marked the second time this month the high-level diplomats gathered in the Swiss city to try to organize the conference, which had originally been proposed for June, then July.

Brahimi stressed the urgency of holding the conference, dubbed Geneva II, which is to be hosted by UN Chief Ban Ki-moon and is meant to follow up on an initial meeting in the Swiss city last year that produced a never-implemented transition plan for Syria.

“I think that what is happening in the region is extremely, extremely serious,” he said, calling on the parties to bring an end to “this situation that is getting out of hand, not only in Syria but also in the region.”

But while all sides have repeatedly said Geneva II should take place as quickly as possible, it is looking ever more unlikely that the conference will get off the ground.

Damascus meanwhile stressed Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had no intention of stepping down at the proposed conference, with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem saying that “if your condition [for talks at Geneva] is President Assad’s resignation, don’t bother coming.”

The fragmented opposition meanwhile has not agreed on who to send to Geneva and continues to insist that any solution to the increasingly conflict must involve Assad’s departure.

Russia, the United Nations and the United States are also disagreeing on the participation of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Brahimi nonetheless remained positive, saying that the Syrian government had signaled it would attend the conference, while the opposition groups were planning to meet on July 4 and 5 to discuss how to organize themselves to attend.

“I think that they will confirm that they will come,” he said.

“No one expects that the meetings will be easy between the two parties, but I think that it would be a step forward if they meet, if they agree to talk,” he added.

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