US, Russia push for Syria peace talks in November
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are calling on the UN to host Syrian peace talks in November. (AFP)
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The United States and Russia have urged the United Nations to set a date for a Syria peace conference in the second week of November, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.
“We will urge a date to be set as soon as possible,” Kerry told reporters at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Reuters reported.
Syria’s peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Sunday urged all parties of the Syrian conflict to engage in peace talks “without pre-conditions,” adding that he hoped negotiations could take place in Geneva by mid-November.
During an interview with French-language television channel TV5 Monde, Brahimi expressed doubts over holding the Geneva II talks, saying: “There is no certainty,” according to Agence France-Presse.
World powers are pressing Syria's regime and opposition to take part in the long-sought peace talks, which are aimed at launching a political transition to end the country's civil war.
The proposed peace conference named "Geneva II" would be to decide how to implement a declaration agreed by the major powers in the Swiss city in June 2012 that there has to be a transitional government in Syria.
At least all five permanent members of the UN Security Council which include Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are expected to be involved in the talks and Brahimi said other key countries could take part.
During the joint press conference with Russia, Kerry also commented on the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal saying it was a “good beginning” giving an unusual praise to Damascus for complying with the UN resolution to destroy its chemical weapons.
“I am not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road but it is a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Experts destroyed missile warheads, bombs and chemical mixing equipment on Sunday on the first day of the campaign to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, according to the United Nations.
The Security Council passed a resolution on September 27 backing a US-Russia plan submitted to the OPCW to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons after a sarin gas attack in August killed hundreds.
Under the plan, Syria’s chemical weapons mixing and production facilities must be destroyed by November 1 and the regime’s stockpile be dismantled by mid-2014.