UN-Arab League envoy skipping US-Russia Syria talks

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will not take part in crunch talks next week between Russian and US officials on a long-delayed Syria peace conference, the United Nations said Tuesday.

In a statement, the UN said that Brahimi welcomed the bilateral talks between Moscow and Washington in The Hague, but would not be participating himself.

On Monday, Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency had quoted an unnamed Russian diplomat as saying that Brahimi would be at the talks in The Netherlands.

The UN did not say whether he had ever planned to take part.

"Mr. Brahimi is in constant contact with both the Russian and the US authorities. Another meeting to further preparations of the 'Geneva II' conference might be held in the near future but its date and place have not yet been set," it noted Tuesday.

The talks, announced on Monday by Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, are expected to take place in the middle of next week.

When asked why Brahimi would not take part in the talks, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said: "People are over-analysing this."

Nesirky said the Americans and Russians had organized a "bilateral" meeting in The Hague, to coincide with another ministerial conference organized by the Netherlands for the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice.

Brahimi continues to work closely with both Washington and Moscow, Nesirky said.

The US State Department said the meeting follows an accord reached at August 9 talks in Washington between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries.

Moscow and Washington agreed in May to step up efforts to bring together President Bashar al-Assad's allies and the opposition for the first time after more than two years of war in Syria.

Gatilov said last week that the Geneva meeting itself would probably not take place until October at the earliest because of a busy diplomatic schedule in September that includes UN meetings in New York.

"States do need some space for preparation" ahead of the Geneva meeting," a senior UN official said, noting that the UN still hoped the Geneva talks would be convened before the UN General Assembly in late September.

The negotiations are meant to be based on the results of a Syria peace conference held in Geneva in June 2012, when world powers agreed on the need to establish a transition government in the conflict-torn country.

But the warring sides subsequently failed to agree on whether Assad could play a role in forming the new government, or whether his closest representatives could serve on the new interim team.

As a result of that failure and an inability to halt the fighting on the ground, the 2012 peace terms were never implemented.