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Arab League says Syria peace conference set for November 23-24

Beirut, Oct 21 (): Arab League chief says long-delayed Peace Conference will convene on November 23, aiming for political transition.

At a press conference held here on Sunday, Arab League (AL) chief Nabil al-Arabi said the second Syria peace conference will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov 23-24.

The conference aims to broker a political compromise to end the fighting in a battle that has killed more than 100,000 people, shattered the nation’s economy and forced some 2 million Syrians to look for refuge abroad.

International efforts to stop the violence in the 2-1/2 year conflict in Syria have stammered, but an agreement reached last month for Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons arsenal renewed efforts to convene the conference, dubbed “Geneva 2″.

The Geneva talks have been postponed repeatedly for months, in part because of fundamental disagreements over the fate of Assad.

In the meantime, a meeting will take place on October 22 in London 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 countries 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.”

The opposition coalition has accepted to attend the London conference, saying it would focus on “these countries’ understandings about Geneva 2 and what it should result in”.

Syrian officials have again and again 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.