Syrian Peace Talks Fail; New Negations Unlikely this Year.

A long-awaited peace conference directed at resolving the Syrian conflict is now unlikely after failed talks this week in Geneva.  Senior American, Russian and U.N. diplomats could not agree on even the basic issues, such as the role - if any – of by President Bashar Assad, which countries should participate and who would represent the different Syrian factions.  U.N. leading diplomat, Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy on Syria, said lack of preparation by the Syrian opposition was one of the biggest obstacles.  "They are divided, that's no secret for anyone, they are facing all sorts of problems," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Syrian government told SANA News agency, "We are not going to Geneva to hand over power," stated Syria's information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, adding "President Bashar al-Assad will remain head of state."

Saudi Arabia is opposed to Iran's participation in the peace talks. Western governments are less reluctant of Iranian participation, citing Iran's important role given Tehran's strong ties to Damascus.

In the first round of preparatory talks, Brahimi met with Wendy R. Sherman, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, and two Russian deputy foreign ministers.  Brahimi also held two spate session, one with other permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, China, and France – and third session with Syria's neighbors: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

The U.N. reports that more than 9 million, or 40 percent of the population, have fled the country.  More than 100,000 people have died in the conflict since 2011.

Brahimi ended his press conference on a positive not, saying, "We are still striving to see if we can have a conference before the end of the year."  However, most analysts predict that is not likely to happen.

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