GENEVA / ST. PETERSBURG
‘I think we are going to have a good meeting. I am optimistic,’ UN peace envoy Kofi Annan says in Geneva.
Kofi Annan, the international mediator for Syria, has expressed “optimism” that June 30 crisis talks on the Arab republic’s conflict in Geneva would produce an acceptable outcome.
“I think we are going to have a good meeting. I am optimistic,” Annan told Reuters in Geneva as he arrived for preparatory discussions. The talks being held by foreign ministers of major powers and regional players, including Turkey, in the Swiss city will end “with an acceptable result,” he said, without giving details.
Syria’s close ally Russia
said it regretted that Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon were not invited to the meeting but called it a “positive step.” “On the whole, we view the upcoming meeting in Geneva as a positive step in a search for a way to broaden and strengthen the basis of an international consensus,” the Russian
Foreign Ministry said in reference to the meeting.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were also scheduled to head for a face-to-face showdown over Syria a day before the Geneva meeting. Clinton and Lavrov were to meet in St. Petersburg in a bid to iron out deep differences over the transition plan being pushed by Annan, which calls for the formation of a national unity government that would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.
U.S. officials are adamant that the plan will not allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power at the top of the transitional government, but Russia
insists that outsiders cannot dictate the ultimate solution or the composition of the interim administration.