An international conference on a political solution to the Syrian conflict could take place November 23-24, Syria's deputy prime minister said Thursday - the first mention of possible dates for the long-delayed gathering.
The United States and Russia have been trying to bring the Damascus government and Syria's divided opposition to the negotiating table for months, but the meeting has been repeatedly delayed and it remains unclear whether either side is really willing to hold talks while the war is deadlocked.
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The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, has not decided whether to attend, and many rebel fighters inside Syria flatly reject negotiating with President Bashar Assad's regime. The government, meanwhile, has refused to talk with the armed opposition.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Syrian deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil was quoted by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency as saying "the conference will be held on the 23rd and 24th of November."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that efforts are intensifying to try to hold the Geneva meeting in mid-November. Ban did not provide concrete dates, and it's not clear whether the schedule provided by Jamil has been agreed to by any other parties.
The renewed effort to organize the Geneva talks stems from the UN Security Council resolution passed last month to rid Syria of its chemical weapons program. The resolution also endorsed a framework for a political transition that key countries adopted last year and it called for an international conference in Geneva to be convened "as soon as possible" to implement it.
Syria's revolt began in March 2011 with largely peaceful protests against the Assad regime before eventually turning into a civil war. The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people, forced more than 2 million to flee the country and left some 4.5 million others displaced within the country.
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