• Syria says peace talks possible


    DAMASCUS: Syria says peace talks could be possible next month amid international efforts to push for a conference in Geneva as a top military intelligence officer was killed in clashes with rebels.

    Syrian state television announced on Thursday (Friday in Manila) that Maj. Gen. Jamaa Jamma “was martyred while carrying out his national duties to defend Syria and its people and pursuing terrorists in Deir Ezzor.”

    Jamaa was in charge of military intelligence in the eastern province, where jihadist forums said he was killed in clashes with radical Islamist fighters.

    The peace process will get a renewed push from United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry, who will travel to London next week for a meeting of the core countries making up the Friends of Syria, the State Department said.

    Kerry said “we are trying to move the process forward. I’ll have meetings next Tuesday in London with the support group of the [Syrian] opposition.”

    “We’re working towards this Geneva conference, not that we know what the outcome is,” he said in an US radio interview.

    In Moscow, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said a proposed peace conference in Geneva could take place on November 23 to 24, saying “we are closer than ever to holding the Geneva 2.”

    Both the Russian foreign ministry and the United Nations said the date of the conference would be decided by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon.

    “When it is time for an announcement, the secretary general will make one,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.

    “And I would remind you and everybody that it is the secretary general who will be convening the conference and it will be the secretary general who invites the different parties to attend.”

    Russia and Western nations have been pushing since May for new talks between the Syrian regime and rebels on a negotiated solution to the conflict, which has killed more than 115,000 people since March 2011.

    The Syrian opposition is divided on attending the conference, and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime says his removal from office will not be on the table at any talks.

    The National Coalition, the opposition umbrella group, said it would hold internal discussions next week culminating in a vote on whether to attend the gathering.


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