UN Syria envoy still working on peace conference plan

UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has said that he was pressing on with plans for a conference aimed at ending the fighting.

Washington: UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has said that 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 yesterday.

"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 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 the reporters.

And amid debate in Washington about arming the Syrian opposition, Brahimi said the UN stand was also very clear.
"Arms do not 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 Endowment 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 organisation," he said.

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

"The time for cosmetic change in Syria and elsewhere is past and people are demanding a transformation of their society."

He also took issue with perceptions that Assad seemed to be gaining the upper hand.

"Most people in November last year were convinced that the regime had lost ... I think that was not correct," he said.

"Now you have a lot of people saying that the regime is winning. The regime is doing much better than it did in November last year, that is true. But in situations like this winning and progress are two different things."


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