Syria talks may be in July, work still to do: Brahimi

GENEVA Wed Jun 5, 2013 12:36pm EDT

U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi addresses the media after a meeting on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi addresses the media after a meeting on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva June 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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GENEVA (Reuters) - A conference on ending the Syrian war could take place in July but there is still a lot of work to do, international envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday after preparatory talks with U.S. and Russian officials.

"We have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to hold this conference in June. We will be continuing our consultations with Russia and the United States to see about windows of opportunity to hold the conference as soon as possible - hopefully in July," he told reporters in Geneva.

The conference would begin with a high-level meeting over two days chaired by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. That would be followed by intensive negotiations between the Syrian parties, facilitated by Brahimi.

"The only sticking point is ... the Syrian component of the conference," he said. "The Syrian sides are not ready."

"Evidently, there is still a lot of work to do to bring a conference about."

A senior U.S. official said Russia and the United States had agreed it was "indispensable" that both sides were represented by credible, authoritative and empowered delegations.

"Obviously the opposition coalition is forming itself. Naming its representatives, agreeing on a delegation is one piece of it," said the U.S. official.

"But there is not yet full clarity on who the regime would send and what that delegation would look like."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the opposition had yet to name its delegation.

"The whole issue is that the Syrian opposition, unlike the government, has not made a fundamental decision about its participation in this conference," he told Interfax news agency.

The only precondition for attending the talks is to sign up to the communique agreed at a Geneva meeting a year ago, which called for a political transition and establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.

"Who that is and how it occurs has to happen by mutual consent. But the 'what' is perfectly clear, there will be a new Syria," said the senior U.S. official.

Last year's conference in Geneva almost came unstuck over the question of Iran's participation, which Russia supported but the United States opposed. In the end neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia took part.

Gatilov and the U.S. official, who requested anonymity, said the participant list at the planned conference had not yet been agreed.

Brahimi and U.S. and Russian officials plan to hold a second round of preparatory talks on June 25.

(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Roche)

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