US, Russia fail to agree Syria peace talks date

Updated: 2013-11-06 04:30


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US, Russia fail to agree Syria peace talks date

A man sits on the rubble of the damaged buildings by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus November 4, 2013.  [Photo/Agencies]

GENEVA - The United States and Russia failed on Tuesday to agree a date for a Syrian peace conference, remaining divided over what role Iran might play in talks to end the civil war and over who would represent Syria's opposition.

"We were hoping that we would be in a position to announce a date today; unfortunately we are not," said U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who chaired the meeting at the United Nations in Geneva. "But we are still striving to see if we can have the conference before the end of the year."

Brahimi conferred with senior US. and Russian officials before widening the talks to include representatives from Britain, France and China, as well as Syria's neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and the Arab League.

Brahimi said he would bring Russian and US. officials together again on November 25 and hoped that opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would have agreed on delegates to represent them some days before that.

"The opposition has a very, very difficult time," he said. "They are divided. It is no secret for anybody. They are facing all types of problems and they are not ready."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, who met Brahimi along with fellow Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, said the United States, which has backed the revolt against Assad, did not have the leverage needed to assemble a credible opposition delegation representing various factions.

"It is not just the representation of the opposition that is required, but the participation of an opposition delegation of a broad range of opposition forces. And this is what the Americans are failing to achieve," RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

Washington was represented at the talks with Brahimi by State Department Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and Robert Ford, the US. ambassador to Syria.

The proposed peace conference is meant to build on a June 2012 agreement among world powers in Geneva that called for a transitional authority with full executive powers, but did not explicitly say Assad should step down.

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