June 15-16 eyed for Geneva conference on Syria: diplomats

GENEVA Tue May 28, 2013 12:04pm EDT

GENEVA (Reuters) - A proposed conference to try to end two years of conflict in Syria could take place on the weekend of June 15-16 in Geneva, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday.

The idea for the conference was hatched at a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov earlier this month. Lavrov said on Monday that holding the meeting would be a "tall order" but he saw some chance of success.

Diplomats said that details of how the conference would be organized had yet to be agreed, and there was still no firm agreement on the date.

But several diplomatic sources said that holding it on that weekend would allow Kerry and Lavrov to launch the process before handing over the most difficult questions to the U.S. and Russian presidents, who will be meeting at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on June 17-18.

If top political leaders can unite behind a single set of guidelines, or "road map" for Syria's transition, officials attending the conference could then set about haggling over the detailed plans for elements of a peace plan, such as rules for a ceasefire and a political transition.

If confirmed, the conference would take place almost a year after a Geneva meeting that agreed on the need for a political transition and establishment of a transitional governing body.

Since the Geneva Communiqué on June 30, 2012, the fighting has escalated and the humanitarian crisis has become far worse, with more than 80,000 people killed and 1.5 million Syrians driven abroad as refugees.

U.N. chief spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian said she had no information on dates, but there were no practical restrictions on the use of the United Nations in Geneva, where the event is expected to take place.

"We continue to work on the basis that it could be in June, or in mid-June, but we have no confirmation of the date."

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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