U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has begun meetings in Geneva with U.S. and Russian officials planning for a second international peace conference on Syria. Meetings will later include other U.N. Security Council representatives, as well as senior diplomats from the European Union, Arab League, and Syria’s neighbors — Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Officials have yet to determine whether Iran and Saudi Arabia will be invited to participate in the conference, and Syrian opposition members have not yet formed a delegation.
The talks are scheduled to start on January 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux, and then move to Geneva. Meanwhile, Russia has rejected a proposed U.N. Security Council statement condemning Syrian regime airstrikes that has come as government warplanes bombard the northern city of Aleppo for the fifth day. According to Doctors Without Borders, at least 189 people have been killed and another 879 wounded in the city since December 15. Opposition activists have accused the government of dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo and the surrounding villages. France claimed the indiscriminate government airstrikes constitute war crimes and the United States said it was very disappointed that a Security Council statement expressing “our collective outrage” was blocked.