Report: Syria peace conference won't happen before December

Story highlights

  • Russian state-run news agency cites source close to parties arranging the talks
  • "Geneva II" peace conference on Syria was tentatively scheduled for end of this month
  • Representatives from U.N., United States, Russia met Tuesday in Geneva

December would be the earliest that any conference on brokering an end to the Syrian civil war would happen, Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reported Tuesday, citing a source close to talks among the United Nations, Russia and the United States.

A proposed "Geneva II" conference in Geneva, Switzerland, was tentatively scheduled for the end of November. It had been delayed several times previously.

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Representatives from the United Nations, Russia and the United States were meeting Tuesday in Geneva in hopes of ironing out a plan for the talks, which have been held up in part because many branches of the Syrian opposition have said they wouldn't attend, or wouldn't participate without preconditions.

Nineteen largely Islamist rebel groups, for example, last month flatly rejected participating. Some groups want Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down before talks. And the Syrian National Coalition, a rebel umbrella group, said it wouldn't participate if Iran -- an ally of the Syrian regime -- is invited.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there will be no preconditions for the talks, Itar-Tass reported Tuesday, adding that preconditions would run counter to plans that the United States and Russia previously drew up for the conference.

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The United States and Russia announced in May that they would try to bring the warring parties to a second conference in Geneva to implement the peace plan they endorsed at Geneva I in 2012, which left open the question of whether al-Assad must leave power.

The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 after government forces cracked down on peaceful protesters during the Arab Spring movement and is now a full-blown civil war. The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people have died in the conflict.

International inspectors, meanwhile, are trying to ensure that Syria eliminates its chemical weapons stockpile by the middle of 2014. Syria agreed to do so under international pressure earlier this year.