Syrian deputy PM says peace conference planned Nov. 23-24


MOSCOW -- Syria's deputy prime minister said today a long-delayed international conference aimed at ending his country's civil war was scheduled for Nov. 23-24 - though Russia, one of the meeting's main organizers, quickly cast doubt on the date.

Qadri Jamil told Reuters the timing of the “Geneva 2" conference, meant to bring Syria's government and opposition together, had been confirmed by the United Nations.

“This is what (U.N. Secretary General) Ban Ki-moon is saying, not me,” he said.

But within hours of his statement, Russia's foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters: “We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.”

“It is not a matter for Syrian officials but the responsibility of U.N. Secretary General to announce and set dates agreed with all sides,” he added.

The deal reached last month for Syria to scrap its chemical weapons rekindled efforts to convene the conference, which Russia and the United States have been trying to organise since May.

Jamil has made several visits to Russia during the conflict, which has killed more than 115,000 people since it began in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

He said the conference was needed because “everyone is at a dead-end - a military and political dead-end.

“Geneva is a way out for everyone: the Americans, Russia, the Syrian regime and the opposition. Whoever realises this first will benefit. Whoever does not realise it will find himself overboard, outside the political process.”