MOSCOW, January 10, 1:31 /ITAR-TASS/. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday, January 9, to discuss the preparation of the international conference on Syria, known as Geneva II.
“The situation around Syria was discussed, including the preparation of the international conference Geneva II on the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis in accordance with the Russian-American initiative,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“It was agreed to continue the joint preparations for this forum at a meeting of the Russian and U.S. foreign ministers to be held in Paris on January 13,” the ministry said.
At their talks in Moscow on May 7, 2013, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to hold an international conference on the basis of the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, in order to try to overcome the crisis in Syria.
Lavrov and Kerry said that their countries would encourage both the Syrian government and opposition groups to look for a political solution.
The date of the conference was announced in November 2013 and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent invitations to participants on January 6, 2014. However, the Syrian opposition has so far not announced the line-up of its delegation.
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.