GENEVA, November 26 (RIA Novosti) – Syrian President Bashar Assad will not attend a peace conference in Geneva in January dedicated to ending the nearly three-year-long Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 100,000, a senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday.
“The conference will open at a foreign minister level. Logically, the [Syrian] government’s delegation should be headed by Foreign Minister Walid Muallem,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters after a meeting about Syria between Russian, US and UN officials in Geneva.
“The presidents are not going to come,” he said.
On a request from United Nations special envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brakhimi, the final lists of delegates from the Syrian government and the opposition forces are due to be approved by the end of this year.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that the long-delayed peace conference, initially announced in May, would begin on January 22, 2014. The talks have been repeatedly postponed because the warring sides have been unable to agree on preconditions and the list of participants.
Bogdanov said the conference would begin with a plenary session for the about 30 participating countries, under the chairmanship of the UN leader. Negotiations are still under way to decide whether Iran and Saudi Arabia should be invited to take part in the conference.
“The initiators of this conference – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry – will deliver speeches followed by statements from delegations of Syria and other states,” he said.
Direct negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition factions, mediated by Brakhimi, are scheduled to begin on January 23. The final day of the conference has not been set.
Bogdanov said a preparatory meeting is due on December 20 and would together five permanent Security Council members (Russia, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom), the UN and four of Syria’s neighbors (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq).
“It is possible that inter-Syrian agreements might require the approval of not only the Geneva-2 plenary meeting, but also of the UN Security Council,” he said, adding that the decisions that next year’s conference is expected to produce might possibly require international assistance regarding its financial, security and political aspects.