• UN envoy to Syria still working on peace conference plan


    WASHINGTON, D.C.: United Nations (UN) peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) he was pressing on with plans for a conference aimed at ending the fighting, though no firm date is in sight.

    “It is extremely difficult to bring people who have been killing one another for two years just by a magic wand to a conference like this. It will take time, but I hope it will happen,” Brahimi told a handful of reporters on the sidelines of an event in Washington.

    “There are still issues that have not been solved. We are hopeful. That’s all we can say.”

    The talks, dubbed Geneva 2, were initially planned for late May after the idea was first floated during a Moscow meeting between United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

    But amid difficulties on agreeing who should sit at the table, the calendar slipped into June, and then July, with the best estimates now hoping for a date in September.

    There is also disagreement between the United States and Russia about whether Iran should attend the talks, which are aimed at bringing together the opposition and the Syrian regime to find a political solution to end a conflict that is now in its third year.

    “The United Nations have made it very clear that we would like all countries . . . with interests and/or influence [to]attend Geneva, and that includes Iran,” Brahimi told reporters.

    And amid debate in Washington about arming the Syrian opposition, Brahimi said the UN stand was also very clear.

    “Arms do no make peace. We would like to see the delivery of arms stopped to all sides.”

    Another major problem is divisions between the Syrian opposition that is fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Brahimi earlier told an audience gathered at the Carnegie Endowsment for International Peace.

    “The opposition is divided that’s no secret. They are trying to get their act together and work their way to being a truly representative organization,” he said.

    But Brahimi sought to allay concerns that any transitional government in Syria could include Assad. The conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives.



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