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UN urges Syrian opposition to name lineup of its delegation to Geneva II

On January 7, media reports said that the National Coalition would consider the question of its participation in Geneva II on January 17

UNITED NATIONS, January 08, /ITAR-TASS/. In his opinion, these are the National Coordination Committee and Kurdish parties which “are not pocket ones.”

“There is the opposition that is prepared to cooperate with the present government, but there are also those who believe it important to talk about some new transitional forms and consider the Geneva Communique a good opportunity to start moving along this road, especially now that the Syrian regime has stated its readiness to give a positive reply to the Russian-American initiative to convene Geneva II and work on the basis of last year’s Communique without preconditions,” he said.

“There are also combat units subordinated to different political forces and there are those who are not subordinated to anyone, who oppose the regime but are convinced of the need to preserve the secular nature of the state. And there are extremists and terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and other of Al-Qaeda’s off-springs which openly state their intention to create a caliphate in Syria and around it. These ideas are also preached by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a group that has recently distanced itself from Al-Qaeda. So there are a variety of groups with differing ideologies and approaches to the future of the country,” Lavrov noted.

“We have no doubt that the opposition groups that have always worked inside Syria - the National Coordination Committee and Kurdish organisations - should be at the conference,” he 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. However, the Syrian opposition has so far not announced the line-up of its delegation.

On January 7, media reports said that the National Coalition would consider the question of its participation in Geneva II on January 17. Over the past several days, six blocs and several independent members have left the National Coalition, which minimises the chances of having a single delegation at the conference.

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.