Doubts over when Syria peace conference to be scheduled

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Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on Sunday a peace conference on Syria is set for Nov. 23 in Geneva following a meeting at the League’s headquarters in Cairo, but U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, denied that any date has been set.

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

The Syrian envoy also said that the talks cannot be convened in the absence of “credible” opposition representation, according to Agence France-Presse.

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

The Syrian opposition is divided over whether to attend the peace talks and will be voting next week on the matter.

It insists that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot remain in power, while Assad’s government says his departure from office cannot be put on the negotiating table.

Brahimi who is on a regional tour to gather support for the Geneva II peace conference planned for November, met with Egyptian officials on Saturday and stressed that “intense efforts” are being made to push for the talks, AFP reported.

“Our hope is that the conference would be held,” he said, in statements carried by AFP.

After the Egypt leg of his tour, Brahimi is expected to fly to Syria and Iran, a steadfast ally of Assad’s regime.

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

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

Tayfour, who is also deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, said what have been agreed on in Geneva I must be fulfilled first and foremost including “release of prisoners,” if SNC to join in the proposed peace talks.

Speaking from Istanbul, Tayfour his group’s participation must also “fulfill the Syrian revolution’s objectives.”

On Oct. 7, the SNC reiterated its demand that President Bashar al-Assad must go for it to partake in Geneva II, dashing hopes that the proposed peace conference will convene especially that Damascus has long rejected any prospect of Assad’s resignation.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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