News / Middle East

Brahimi: Delay on International Syria Conference

UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi attends a press conference June 25, 2013 in Geneva
UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi attends a press conference June 25, 2013 in Geneva
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Selah Hennessy
— It is unlikely that a Syrian peace conference will take place in July as planned, according to United Nations special representative Lakhdar Brahimi.  

Russia and the United States agreed in early May to convene an international conference aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to Syria’s conflict.

Earlier this month delegates from Russia and the United States, along with Brahimi, had a first meeting aimed at preparing the way for that conference, which they said would “hopefully” take place in July.

But speaking to reporters Tuesday in Geneva, just before another meeting with the U.S. and Russian delegations, Brahimi said a July date is unlikely.

"I doubt whether the conference will take place in July.  The opposition, you know, they are meeting, I think the next meeting is on four and five July.  So, I do not think they will be ready,” Brahimi said.

Tuesday’s meeting included U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman and two Russian deputy foreign ministers.

Brahimi said their job is to assess what needs to be done to make sure the Geneva conference on Syria can go ahead with the “best chances of success”.  The pressure is on, he said, to make progress.

“I think that also what is happening in the region is extremely, extremely serious and I very, very much hope that people, government in the region and the big powers, particularly United States and Russia will - I am sure they are aware - but they would like to contain this situation that is getting out of hand, not only in Syria but also in the region," Brahimi said.

A U.N. statement Tuesday said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plan to meet next week to discuss the situation in Syria.

The United States and Russia are supporting opposite sides in the Syrian conflict: Russia supports President Bashar Assad, while the U.S. backs the opposition.  The United States has recently said it will begin sending arms to the opposition, in addition to the non-lethal aid it had been providing.

A senior Middle East analyst at the Britain-based group Maplecroft, Torbjorn Soltvedt, says the possibility of finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis is growing increasingly doubtful.

An international conference, he says, seems unlikely to change the situation on the ground in Syria.

“Even if it does take place I think its chances of achieving anything are pretty bleak.  The positions of Russia and the U.S. are very different, and if you look at the fighters on the ground in Syria I do not think there is much impetus for either side in the conflict to lay down their arms and cease fighting.  I think both sides feel they have more to gain from carrying on the battle,” Soltvedt said.

Syria’s Foreign Minister said Monday his government is serious about participating in the proposed Geneva conference in the hopes of building a coalition government that consists of representatives of all the Syrian people.  He said the government has no intention of “handing over authority” to other parties.

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