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MOSCOW, December 27, /ITAR-TASS/. Syria should remain a single state with no threats of terrorist attacks or weapons of mass destruction coming from its territory, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said.
In an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta he said it was also important to ensure that Syria did not turn into a home base for Al Qaeda and other extremist organisations.
According to Patrushev, this can be achieved by convening an international conference on Syria at the earliest opportunity, with all sides concerned taking a constructive part in it.
“However things are moving with difficulty. The conference cannot be convened at the dates determined initially. Much depends on how much the United States and some other states want and can consolidate the [Syrian] opposition and encourage it to attend this international forum,” he said.
Patrushev stressed that Russia would continue efforts aimed at implementing the Geneva agreements of 2012. “There is the potential for that, and we are working patiently with all influential international partners. The Syrian opposition itself cannot work out a common stance on the main issue - participation in the conference. Some armed groups dominated by foreign mercenaries have opted for continuing the war and rejected the international community’s efforts,” he 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 8 million people have been displaced, the U.N. said.
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 to be held on January 22, 2014.
The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Geneva, will now be held in two parts, with the opening session in Montreux, and, after a day’s break, moving on January 24 to the world body’s headquarters in Geneva. The conference will bring the Syrian government and the opposition to a negotiating table for the first time since the conflict started in March 2011.
The talks would not be open-ended, and a time frame would be set once the negotiations started, Khawla Mattar, spokeswoman for Brahimi, who is organising the conference, said.
Further details are expected to be discussed on Friday in a trilateral meeting between Brahimi and officials from the United States and Russia.
The trilateral group, due to meet at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, would then be joined by permanent representatives of other permanent members of the Security Council - China, France and the United Kingdom - as well as of the League of Arab States, European Union and Syria’s immediate neighbours - Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
In addition to logistics, the meeting will discuss items such as the list of countries to be invited, and the compositions of the Syrian government and opposition delegations.
“The JSR [joint special representative] would like to know the names of participants as soon as possible, by the end of the year the latest, so that he could commence preliminary consultations with them,” Mattar said referring to Brahimi.