MOSCOW, November 25 (RIA Novosti) – A long-delayed international peace conference dedicated to ending the conflict in Syria will be held on January 22 in Geneva, the United Nations said Monday.
The talks are expected to bring together the conflicting sides in Syria’s civil war, as well as influential countries in the region, the UN and major world powers, including Russia and the United States.
The talks have been repeatedly postponed because the conflicting sides have been unable to agree on preconditions.
Officials set the new date nearly two months in advance to give the fragmented Syrian opposition enough time to form a delegation capable of both making decisions and implementing them after the conference, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Gennady Gatilov said.
The conference would be the first time that the Syrian government negotiates directly with the country’s rebel movement.
Russia is urging the Syrian opposition to put together a single, united delegation, Gatilov said.
“This delegation should include representatives of all major opposition groups, those that reflect the wide spectrum of opinions and positions of Syrian society,” he told journalists after a trilateral meeting between Russia, the United States and the UN to prepare for the conference.
Gatilov said the next such trilateral meeting would be held in late December.
Iran’s participation is also considered key for the success of the talks, he said.
“Iran is a major regional power, a country that is involved in events connected with what’s happening around Syria,” Gatilov said. “Without Iran’s participation, it’s hard to imagine that the conference could make decisions that are subsequently possible for everyone to carry out.”
The Western Asian country, a neighbor of Syria, clinched a breakthrough deal with six world powers on Sunday to scale down its nuclear program in exchange for sanction relief.
More than 100,000 people have been killed and 9 million people displaced since fighting broke out in Syria in 2011, according to the UN.
Updated with Gatilov's comments and relevant background information.