BEIRUT, October 28 (Itar-Tass) - UN/LAS joint special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is expected to travel from Beirut to Damascus on Monday. Al Mustaqbal television reported with reference to diplomatic sources that Brahimi “needs to make additional contacts with the Syrian side.”
Damascus has already expressed readiness to receive the Algerian diplomat, stressing the need “to observe neutrality.” Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, in particular, in an interview to Al Mayadeen television last week advised Brahimi “not to go beyond the scope of his mission.”
The UN emissary, who is making diplomatic efforts to convene the Geneva 2 peace conference, met in Tehran on Sunday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The Naharnet news service reported that the Iranian leader stressed the “importance of the provision of humanitarian aid to Syria and prevention of penetration of terrorist groups into it.” Along with the full liquidation of chemical weapons, these steps, in the view of Rouhani, would promote the efforts to achieve “stability and peace in Syria.” The Iranian president also expressed readiness to call in Tehran a regional conference “to work out the common ground for the Syrian settlement.”
Brahimi during his Middle East tour has visited Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Turkey. In Damascus he is expected, in addition to the official contacts, to meet with representatives of the internal opposition.
Meanwhile, the National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (NCR), supported by the West and Arabs, is still undecided on the participation in the Geneva conference. Representatives of foreign factions have promised to announce the final decision only after a meeting of the NCR leadership on November 9.
Spokesman for the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) Louay Mekdad for his part demanded that the Geneva 2 organisers provide preliminary guarantees, which boil down “to the exclusion of any role of President Assad in the transition process.” Otherwise, he said, the FSA “would not sit at the negotiating table.”
On Saturday, 22 armed Islamist groups, which are part of or cooperate with the FSA, announced a boycott to the peace conference. Among them there are the linked with the Muslim Brotherhood Liwa al-Tawhid and Ahrar al-Sham Brigades, as well as more radical - Grandsons of the Prophet, Jaysh al-Islam and Sahaba Brigades. Islamists have said they “will consider those who go to Geneva be treated as traitors and will put them on trial.”
The split in the ranks of the opposition is the main obstacle to the convening of the Geneva 2 conference. In this context, pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat does not rule out that the forum may be postponed until the beginning of 2014.