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SUNDAY, 20 APR 2014
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No preconditions for Syria peace talks: Brahimi
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BEIRUT: U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday participation in the Geneva 2 conference aimed at brokering a peaceful political settlement to the crisis in Syria would be without preconditions as Lebanon reiterated readiness to attend the talks.

Brahimi, who held talks with senior Lebanese officials after arriving from Damascus, also said that the armed and civil Syrian opposition should form a credible delegation in order to attend the peace talks.

“Government and opposition figures that we met [in Syria] agree to convening the [Geneva 2] conference and the Syrian government agreed to take part without prior restraints or conditions which is similar to what we are saying about this conference,” he told reporters at the Grand Serail in Beirut.

"There is an agreement that attendance at the Geneva talks will not be based on preconditions from any side," said Brahimi, who held talks with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The veteran Algerian diplomat is on a regional tour in preparation for the talks in Geneva.

“It is only normal for each country to have its own problems, concerns and hopes with regard to the results of the conference,” he said, describing Syria’s crisis as very dangerous and posing a threat to the Syrian people and region as a whole.

Brahimi also noted that he would relay the concerns of officials he met to the United States and Russia at a Nov. 4 meeting and then to other countries during the talks to be held in Geneva.

Asked whether the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria would attend the talks, Brahimi said: “ISIS was not interested in this conference.” He also said no country had proposed inviting the extreme rebel group to take part.

Discussions to set a definitive date for the conference are ongoing, Brahimi said, adding that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would make the announcement when the time was right.

Brahimi, who said his tour would not include Saudi Arabia, also noted that the conference would be based on the Geneva communiqué, issued last year during the first round of talks to end the more than two-year conflict.

“The points are clear and stipulate that the Syrian sides agree on forming a transitional government which has all the powers and will prepare for the inevitable elections,” he said.

The second phase, Brahimi added, would bring the sides together with the U.N. and agree on a means of moving away from “Syria’s fatal situation” to the “appropriate conditions that would allow for the building of a new Syrian republic.”

Brahimi also said that Lebanon’s three top officials – president, speaker, prime minister – supported convening the conference and sought to attend the talks in Geneva.

“The officials are in favor of [us] sending an invitation to [Lebanon] to attend,” Brahimi said.

For his part, Mikati said attendance at the Geneva conference was on contingent on whether Lebanon is invited to attend but stressed that Lebanese participation was important.

“Our participation does not aim at interfering in Syria’s affairs but we are convinced of the need to be part of any discussion on Syria’s future because we are the country most affected by the repercussions, particularly the presence of Syrian refugees,” Mikati told Brahimi, according to a statement from the premier’s office.

During his talks with Brahimi, Mikati also spoke about the recent meeting of the International Group to Support Lebanon, saying he hoped for practical steps to help address Lebanon’s growing difficulties as a result of the large influx of Syrian refugees.

He also said Lebanon has begun implementing new measures with regard to the Syrian refugees. Lebanon hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees.

“Lebanon is keen on having the best ties with all Arab countries but it gives priority to fortifying its domestic front and prevent any repercussions from external events and that is why the government adopted the policy of disassociation,” Mikati said, referring to Beirut’s policy of keeping Lebanon distant from regional crises, namely Syria’s.

Earlier in the day, Brahimi met with President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace followed by talks with Speaker Nabih Berri.

He also is scheduled to meet with caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour.

Sleiman and Brahimi, according to a statement from the Presidential Palace, discussed Brahimi's latest round of consultations aimed at finding a solution to the Syria crisis.

The envoy thanked Lebanon given the impact from the Syrian crisis on the small Arab state.

“Lebanon is carrying a lot of burdens due to the tragic situation in Syria and we, in the name of the United Nations, thank it for the role it is playing,” Brahimi said.

Meanwhile, Berri described his meeting with the envoy as productive.

“[The meeting] focused on the need to make the Geneva 2 talks successful and for Syria to recover because that would in turn help the region recover as well,” Berri told reporters at his Ain el-Tineh residence.

“We also stressed on the need to invite Lebanon to attend the Geneva 2 talks,” he added.

 
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