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Syria peace conference may not take place next month, says Brahimi

GENEVA: A widely anticipated peace conference for Syria will probably not take place next month as hoped, UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said yesterday.
“Frankly, I doubt that the conference will take place in July,” he told reporters in Geneva ahead of a second meeting with US and Russian diplomats aimed at paving the way for the conference.
Brahimi was reluctant to discuss the expected outcome of yesterday’s meeting, saying only: “I am confident that our discussions will be constructive and I am also confident that we will make progress.”
The Algerian career diplomat began his meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman at 11:30 GMT.
The meeting marked the second time this month the high-level diplomats gather in the Swiss city to try to organize the conference, which had originally been proposed for June, then July.
Brahimi stressed the urgency of holding the conference, dubbed Geneva 2, which is to be hosted by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and is meant to follow up on an initial meeting in the Swiss city last year that produced a never-implemented transition plan for Syria.
“I think that what is happening in the region is extremely, extremely serious,” he said, calling on the parties to bring an end to “this situation that is getting out of hand, not only in Syria but also in the region.”
But while all sides have repeatedly said Geneva 2 should take place as quickly as possible, it is looking ever more unlikely that the conference will get off the ground.
The 27-month conflict in Syria, which according to the UN has already killed more than 93,000 people, is spinning ever more out of control.
The United States has accused Damascus of using chemical weapons against the rebels, something it has warned could undermine the chances for a political settlement.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday a renewed government offensive against the opposition was harming any chance of holding the conference.
Damascus meanwhile said Monday that Bashar Assad had no intention of stepping down.

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