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Date Set for Syria Peace Talks – or Maybe Not

Arab League chief says talks will convene on November 23 but U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria says otherwise.
By Arutz Sheva
First Publish: 10/20/2013, 5:04 PM

Lakhdar Brahimi
Lakhdar Brahimi
AFP/Louai Beshara

There are conflicting reports on whether a date has finally been set for a long-delayed Geneva peace conference, dubbed Geneva 2, aimed at bringing together Syria's government and opposition.

According to Al Jazeera, Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby said on Sunday that joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi informed him that the talks will convene on November 23.

El-Araby made the comment to reporters after meeting Brahimi, the joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, at the League's Cairo headquarters.

However, Al Arabiya quoted news agencies as saying that Brahimi denied that any date has been set.

“The date has not been officially set,” Brahimi was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

AFP also quoted Brahimi as denying the reports, saying that “The conference will not convene without a credible opposition representing an important segment of the Syrian people opposed (to President Bashar al-Assad).” 

Meanwhile, a meeting will take place in London on October 22 between representatives of the Syrian opposition and the foreign ministers of the so-called London 11, which consists of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the nations would "discuss preparations for the Geneva Conference, support for the [opposition] Syrian National Coalition, and our efforts to achieve a political settlement to this tragic conflict."

The renewed initiative for peace talks comes after a Syria agreed in September to turn over its chemical weapons arsenal for destruction to avert threatened U.S. military strikes.

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

But some parts of the opposition to Syria are against attending the so-called Geneva 2 talks as long as Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power.

The main Western-backed opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, is scheduled to hold a meeting on November 1 to decide whether or not to attend a Geneva conference.

Mohammad Farouk Tayfour, a member of the general secretariat of the Syrian National Council (SNC), told Al Arabiya that the opposition group could participate in Geneva 2 if the Syrian government “builds steps of trust.”

Tayfour, who is also deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, mentioned a “release of prisoners,” as one of the conditions for the SNC to join the peace talks.