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Syria floats Nov 23 for peace talks

Qadri Jamil gave what he said were the dates for the meeting during a news conference in Moscow.

A senior Syrian official said on Thursday that a long-delayed international conference aimed at the country’s civil war was scheduled for November 23-24,but co-organisers Russia and the United States said no date had been set.

A spokeswoman for the UN Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi also cast doubt on the statement,saying the timing of the conference intended to bring Syria’s government and opposition together had not yet been agreed.

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil gave what he said were the dates for the meeting during a news conference in Moscow. He later said: “This is what (U.N. Secretary General) Ban Ki-moon is saying,not me.”

Hours later,Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said: “We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.” He said,“It is not a matter for Syrian officials but the responsibility of UN Secretary General to announce and set dates agreed with all sides,” Lukashevich said.

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The United States seconded that. “No date is set until it is set and announced by the UN,” a senior State Department official said.

Brahimi spokeswoman Khawla Mattar said she did not expect a date to be announced before early November. “We are still not announcing a date because we don’t think they are finalised or agreed by all parties,” Mattar said.

But she said a deputy to Brahimi,Nasser al-Kidwa,would meet with Syrian opposition representatives in Istanbul and other capitals to “discuss with them their readiness for specific dates in November.”

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The deal reached last month for Syria to scrap its chemical weapons rekindled efforts to convene the conference,dubbed “Geneva 2”,which Russia and the United States have been trying to organise since May.

Jamil has made several visits to Russia during the conflict,which has killed more than 115,000 people since it began in March 2011.

He said the conference was needed because “everyone is at a dead end — a military and political dead end. Geneva is a way out for everyone: the Americans,Russia,the Syrian regime and the opposition. Whoever realises this first will benefit. Whoever does not realise it will find himself overboard,outside the political process.”

First published on: 18-10-2013 at 03:36:00 am
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