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Russian MPs arrive in Syria ahead of Geneva II

January 18, 2014, 18:05 UTC+3 BEIRUT
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BEIRUT, January 18, /ITAR-TASS/. A delegation of Russian MPs arrived in Syria on Saturday, January 18, ahead of the international conference Geneva II convened in a bid to end the crisis in this country.

“The purpose of our visit ahead of this important international event is to help strengthen Russia’s positions in the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis,” Alexander Yushchenko, a member of the Energy Committee in the State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament, told ITAR-TASS.

The delegation is on its way to Damascus, accompanied by members of Syrian public and religious organsiations. In the evening, the delegation is scheduled to meet with the leadership of the Syrian parliament.

Contemporaneously with the visit, Russia will deliver humanitarian aid to Syria on Sunday, January 19.

Russia has played a key role in organising the peace conference, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.

In his opinion, Russian diplomats “deserve the main credit for getting the Syrian parties’ consent to attend the conference.”

“We are going to Geneva with one condition only: we want the dialogue to succeed,” the diplomat said.

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.

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.

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.

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