News / Middle East

Brahimi Sets Deadline for Naming Syrian Delegations to Talks

FILE - U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva, Switzerland.
FILE - U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva, Switzerland.
Reuters
International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has given Syria's warring sides until December 27 to name their delegations to planned peace negotiations next month, officials said on Thursday.
 
(L) Fighters operating under the Free Syrian Army drag a rocket launcher in Aleppo, Nov, 13, 2013. (R) Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad pose after taking control of Hujaira, south of Damascus, from rebel fighters, in this handout photo distributed by SANA.(L) Fighters operating under the Free Syrian Army drag a rocket launcher in Aleppo, Nov, 13, 2013. (R) Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad pose after taking control of Hujaira, south of Damascus, from rebel fighters, in this handout photo distributed by SANA.
x
(L) Fighters operating under the Free Syrian Army drag a rocket launcher in Aleppo, Nov, 13, 2013. (R) Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad pose after taking control of Hujaira, south of Damascus, from rebel fighters, in this handout photo distributed by SANA.
(L) Fighters operating under the Free Syrian Army drag a rocket launcher in Aleppo, Nov, 13, 2013. (R) Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad pose after taking control of Hujaira, south of Damascus, from rebel fighters, in this handout photo distributed by SANA.
​About 30 ministers from big powers, regional countries and others are due to gather in the resort of Montreux on January 22 to give their blessing to the negotiations between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to oust him.
 
Then Brahimi will broker the first face-to-face Syrian talks in Geneva from January 23. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to confirm the Montreux ministerial venue shortly - Geneva hotels will be full at the time due to an annual luxury watch fair.
 
The stated goal is to agree on a transitional government with full powers to end a 1,000-day-old conflict that has killed well over 100,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.
 
Brahimi has set a deadline for Damascus and the opposition to name their teams to the “Geneva 2 conference”, which follows one held by his predecessor Kofi Annan in June 2012. Those talks did not formally involve the Syrian government and its foes.
 
The envoy's spokeswoman, Khawla Mattar, said Brahimi wanted the delegations named by December 27.

“That is the deadline by which Brahimi should receive the names of the Syrian delegations and who is leading them,” she said.
 
This is unlikely to present a problem to Assad's government, but his opponents are deeply divided and in disarray.
 
“The biggest challenge is the opposition delegation. There is still no agreement,” an Arab diplomat said.
 
General Salim Idriss, head of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, said on November 26 that his group would shun the peace conference and pursue its fight to topple Assad regardless.
 
The Syrian National Coalition opposition group, which also has Western support but minimal influence over fighters on the ground, has said it is ready to attend, but demands that Assad  play no role in the proposed transitional government.
 
“With every day that passes the opposition is getting more fractured,” said a Western diplomat. “We have to make sure they turn up and they are united. That is the biggest challenge.”

Coaching the opposition
 
Experts from the United Nations and Western allies are helping prepare opposition representatives for tough negotiations.

“The Swiss are doing it, the Americans too. They are training them in negotiating skills,” said one source.
 
The Western diplomat said: “They need a lot of work, they have to be ready to come to the table, be ready to speak, have a communications strategy and understand the negotiating process.”
 
Brahimi is to meet U.S. and Russian officials in Geneva on December 20 to try to settle the divisive issue of the guest list for the ministerial meeting, particularly whether to invite Syria's ally Iran.
 
The former Algerian foreign minister and veteran U.N. envoy has said he wants both Iran and Saudi Arabia at the table.
 
Some expect a diplomatic solution on Iran to be finessed.
 
“There might be some fudge in which you would have certain countries within the room itself and then a delegation in the corridor and not getting access to the main negotiating chamber, but in some way present,” a diplomatic source suggested.
 
Washington has said Iran cannot be included unless it approves the text agreed in Geneva on June 30, 2012 which set out a roadmap for transition but left open Assad's part in it.
 
“Iran won't accept the notion of political transition,” the diplomatic source said.
 
Assad, emboldened by a string of military successes, has said he will send delegates to the Geneva talks but will accept no preconditions and will put any agreement to a referendum - a vote which opposition figures say will be rigged against them.
 
It is not yet clear how long the peace conference being held at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva will last.
 
“Once it starts, he [Brahimi] wants there to be a timeframe for the two Syrian delegations, it should not be open-ended,” Mattar said.
 
The Western diplomat said getting the two sides in the same room would be a major achievement, but that that would only be a start.

“It will probably be a year and take several rounds.”

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs