Syria Talks Start, Assad Remains Insist Damascus

Lakhdar Brahimi met officials from Russia and the U.S. on Tuesday for discussions to convene the Syrian peace talks that have been long delayed. The hope is to start them this year despite the continual dispute over the future of President Bashar al-Assad and whether Iran, his ally will be allowed to attend.

Damascus said hours earlier that Assad would stay on as leader in Syria, casting more doubt on a political transition, which is the main focus of the Geneva 2 meetings.

Brahimi, the envoy for Syria in the U.N.-Arab League conferred with Wendy Sherman the Under Secretary for the U.S., Robert Ford the Ambassador to Syria from the U.S. and Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov the deputy foreign ministers from Russia, in Geneva at the United Nations.

Following the talks that were closed door, the group was to be joined by other officials from the other members of the Security Council at the U.N. Britain, China and France along with neighbors of Syria Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and the Arab League.

A source at the U.N. said that even if they were unable to announce a conference date at once, the aim was to have all groups and parties ready for a particular date.

It appears that Syria is not ready to make any compromises as national television said the nation and its people would remain and Assad would be the president.

Efforts by the international community to end the Syria conflict, which to date has killed more than 100,000, destabilized the entire Middle East region, and driven millions out of their homes, has not been successful.

The peace conference was meant to build upon the agreement made in June of 2012 amongst world powers that called for the establishment of a transitional authority that had full executive powers, but left it on the table whether or not Assad could play a part in the transition.

Russia has said that Iran must be a participant to any peace talks after the biggest political opposition group in Syria said their coalition would not take part, if Tehran were able to attend.

Sergei Lavrov the Foreign Minister for Russia also rejected the demand by the Syrian National Coalition for a time frame that included Assad quitting, ruling out any preconditions for the conference in Geneva.

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