Doubtful Syria peace conference will happen in July: UN envoy
A widely anticipated peace conference for Syria will probably not take place next month as hoped, UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said Tuesday.
"Frankly, I doubt that the conference will take place in July," he told reporters in Geneva ahead of a second meeting with US and Russian diplomats aimed at paving the way for a new international conference towards ending the spiralling conflict in Syria.
Brahimi was set to meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman in the Swiss city for the second time this month in a bid to organise the conference, which had originally been pencilled in for June, then July.
The UN envoy stressed the urgency of holding the conference, dubbed Geneva 2, which is set to be hosted by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and is meant to follow up on an initial Geneva meeting last year that produced a never-implemented transition plan for Syria.
"I think that what is happening in the region is extremely, extremely serious, and I very much hope that governments in the region and the state partners, especially the United States and Russia ... will act to (end) this situation that is getting out of hand, not only in Syria but in the region," he said.
But while Brahimi said he was sure Tuesday's meeting would be "constructive," and all sides have repeatedly said Geneva 2 should take place as quickly as possible, it is looking ever more unlikely that the conference will get off the ground.
The 27-month conflict, which has already killed more than 93,000 people, according to the UN, is spinning ever more out of control.
The United States has accused Damascus of using chemical weapons against the rebels, something it has warned could undermine the chances for a political settlement, while British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday a renewed government offensive against the opposition was harming any chance of holding the conference.
Damascus meanwhile stressed Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had no intention of stepping down at the proposed conference.
"President Bashar al-Assad will not resign. If your condition (for talks at Geneva) is President Assad's resignation, don't bother coming," Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem told reporters.
The fragmented opposition meanwhile has not agreed upon who to send to Geneva 2 and continues to insist that any solution to the increasingly sectarian conflict must involve Assad's departure.
© 2013 AFP