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MOSCOW, December 09, 23:51 /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Jauda on Monday, December 9, to discuss the situation in Syria and the convocation of an international conference on Syria known as Geneva II.
The ministers “had a substantive exchange of opinions on the development of transformations in the Middle East and North Africa, paying special attention to the situation in Syria and around it in the light of the efforts to overcome the crisis in that country by convening the international conference Geneva II in order to implement the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Lavrov and Jauda “stressed the need to stop the violence as soon as possible and solve acute humanitarian issues, including the problem of Syrian refugees in Jordan, while ensuring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”
The international conference on Syria known as Geneva II will be held on January 22, 2014 as scheduled and there will be no delay even despite possible logistical problems related to its organisation, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, said.
His spokesperson said that Brahimi had reiterated his interest in convening Geneva II on January 22, 2014 and pledged that his team and the United Nations would work hard to overcome all problems.
In an interview with the Swiss television channel RTS earlier, Brahimi admitted that there would be problems with accommodating numerous conference guests at Geneva’s hotels in late January due to a watch exhibition to be held there at the same time.
After that, Montreux, 90 km from Geneva, started to be mentioned as a possible venue for the conference.
The U.N. Office at Geneva admitted logistical problems but said that no decisions to postpone the conference had been made thus far. A trilateral meeting of Russian, U.S. and U.N. officials is to be held in Geneva on December 20 to prepare the conference. It is expected that its venue or venues will be determined by that time.
Thirty countries are listed as external participants of Geneva II. It is not clear yet whether or not Iran will be invited, but this question will be decided on December 20. Russia insists Iranian officials should participate in Geneva II, but the United States objects.
Brahimi said in late November that there was still no clarity about the participation of Iran and Saudi Arabia in the conference.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says that Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia should take part in Geneva II as the most influential Muslim countries. “It has been agreed that the talks will be conducted by the Syrians themselves. They will be helped only by Special Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. But the conference, and everyone agrees with this, should be opened in the presence of ‘external players’ which influence the situation one way or another or bear responsibility for maintaining peace and security,” he said.
The minister noted that the obvious candidates were those who drafted the Geneva Communique and participated in the conference in Geneva on June 30, 2012: the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the League of Arab States, the European Union, and Turkey.
“We want this circle to be enlarged because last year’s conference was not attended by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and these are two countries that are associated with the main sponsors of different warring factions in Syria,” Lavrov said.
He thinks that the presence of these countries at the conference is important because Iran is perceived as the leader of Shi’ism in Islam, and Saudi Arabia as the leader of Sunnis. “It is fundamentally important to have all branches of Islam represented because the Syrian crisis, just like many other crises in the Middle East, has a clearly pronounced Islamic dimension,” the minister said.
He warned against attempts to “ignore the fact that the division within Islam between the Sunnis and Shiites poses an enormous threat to security not only in this region but far beyond it.”
Lavrov also stressed the importance of inviting Indonesia to the conference, which is the world’s largest Muslim country and which “wants to take part in the conference being aware of responsibility for the situation in the Islamic world.”
“We should also invite the leaders of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which brings together all Muslims without exception and which is called upon to promote common approaches allowing Islamic countries to play an equal role in solving international problems without pandering to divisions within the Islamic world,” the Russian foreign minister said.
The goal of Geneva II would be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communique, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on June 30, 2012.
The communique lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among others, it calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.
More than 100,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since March 2011 when opposition protesters first sought the ouster of the Assad Government, and a further 6.5 million people have been displaced, the U.N. said.