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US proposes Syria peace talks at UN in September, say sources - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A man walks with makeshift crutches along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs August 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Yazan Homsy.)

A man walks with makeshift crutches along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs August 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Yazan Homsy.)

Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat—The US State Department has proposed holding the “Geneva II” conference on the Syrian crisis in the second half of September, and at the UN in New York rather than in the Swiss city, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

Senior diplomatic sources based in Paris, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the reason of Washington’s suggestion is purely “pragmatic,” given presence of international diplomats operating in the UN’s General Assembly.

Although it was originally proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in May, attempts to settle on a final date have proved elusive, thanks in part to disagreements among the Syrian opposition.

For its part, Russia has not confirmed such reports, though Lavrov demanded this week that the conference be held as soon as possible.

“What is happening [in Syria] makes the calling of the forum even more pressing. The more we delay calling it, the more victims there will be among civilians,” Lavrov said at a press conference in the Italian capital of Rome on Tuesday.

So far, the Syrian opposition, represented by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), has not set up a delegation for the conference, as it currently refuses to negotiate with the Syrian government.

The United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is reportedly “pessimistic” about the prospects of the conference being held next month.

For Brahimi, the hard-line position of the SNC head Ahmed Jarba and the encouragement he receives from some of the influential Gulf States have impeded the realization of the conference.

Brahimi is thought to have called on several international actors to pressure Jarba to show more “flexibility” over the conference, particularly after the rebels on the ground have recently achieved a number of successes in the north, east and south of Syria.

Rebel attempts to turn the tide of battle in Syria decisively in the their favor have turned on new supplies of arms, as well as attempts to improve coordination between fractious rebel militias.

However, many Western capitals have begun to complain that many of the plans and proposals they have put forward to assist and train Syrian rebels have not been “responded to as expected” by the Syrian opposition.

In one case, a course intended to train around 40 rebel fighters was attended by only two opposition fighters, prompting its cancellation, Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt.