A date has been set for a long-delayed Geneva peace conference aimed at bringing together Syria’s government and opposition.
Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby said on Sunday that international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi informed him that the talks will convene on November 23.
El-Araby made the comment to reporters after meeting Brahimi, the joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, at the bloc’s Cairo headquarters, on the first leg of a regional tour he is conducting ahead of the conference.
Meanwhile, a meeting will take place in London on October 22 between representatives of the Syrian opposition and the foreign ministers of the so-called London 11.
The group consists of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the nations would “discuss preparations for the Geneva Conference, support for the [opposition] Syrian National Coalition, and our efforts to achieve a political settlement to this tragic conflict.”
World powers are focusing on a political solution to the war in Syria after Washington dropped plans for US-led strikes in response to a chemical attack in Damascus, which the US blames on Syrian government forces.
Russia and Western nations are pushing for new talks between the Syrian regime and rebels on a negotiated solution to the conflict, which has killed more than 115,000 people since March 2011.
But the opposition’s Western and Arab backers are facing resistance from some among the opposition to attending the so-called Geneva 2 talks as long as Assad remains in power.
The opposition coalition has agreed to attend the London conference, saying it would focus on “these countries’ understandings about Geneva 2 and what it should result in”.
The main Western-backed opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, is scheduled to hold a meeting on November 1 to decide whether or not to attend a Geneva conference.
The peace talks aim to map a path forward toward a political transition in Syria, and put in place a transitional government.
Syrian officials have repeatedly said they are willing to take part in the Geneva peace talks, but not with any preconditions such as Assad’s resignation.
They say the president will stay at least until the end of his term in mid-2014, and he will decide then whether to seek re-election. The regime has refused to negotiate with the armed opposition.