Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria said today (Nov. 5) that the peace talks between the Assad government and rebel groups will not go ahead in November as planned.
Brahimi said that nevertheless diplomats were "still striving to see if we can have the conference before the end of the year". Brahimi made the announcement after meeting with senior diplomats in Geneva.
The announcement came after he met senior diplomats in Geneva in a new drive to prepare the long-delayed peace conference. President Bashar al-Assad's government signaled he was not ready to negotiate handing over power.
Brahimi said that the opposition was divided on its aims. "It's no secret for anybody, and they are facing all sorts of problems and they are working very, very hard to get ready. And they are not ready". Actually the main group within the western-backed National Syrian Coalition, the Syrian National Council had already said they would not attend the conference. At the same time large groupings of rebels have rejected the authority of the Coalition and its military counterpart the Free Syrian Army.
The Russians have called for Iran to be invited to negotiations but those rebel groups who might attend oppose that. Ahmed Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition also said that his group would not attend without a time frame for Assad's departure and he also opposes Iran's attendance calling Iran's attendance a "provocation". He also demanded a ceasefire during any talks.
The Syrian National Coalition is set to meet on Saturday in Instanbul Turkey to decide if they will attend peace talks. If the group decides to go the key Syrian National Council threatens to quit the coalition. Brahimi said at a recent news conference what should be obvious: "If the opposition does not participate there will be no Geneva conference.The participation of the opposition is essential, necessary and important". However, even if the western-backed political opposition does decide to attend, the actual groups fighting on the ground and in particular all the Islamist radical groups will not be present nor do they want to be. Given the circumstances it would probably be impossible to enforce any peace agreement. Until both sides decide that they cannot win militarily, conditions for successful peace talks do not exist.
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