The U.N. Security Council will hold an informal meeting with members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition this week, though it is unclear whether the chief rebel commander will attend, Britain's U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.
The meeting will take place on Friday and include political and military representatives of the Syrian opposition, British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said in a statement. Saudi-backed tribal leader Ahmed al-Jarba, the new president of the coalition, will lead the delegation, he said.
Lyall Grant said the informal nature of the meeting would "provide a forum for members of the council to have a frank and informal exchange with the National Coalition, to discuss key issues relating to the Syrian conflict."
Those issues include "ending the violence and preparing for the Geneva II conference, as well as addressing the issues of humanitarian access, human rights, refugees and protection of civilians."
So far, attempts to organize a "Geneva II" peace conference on Syria to revive a political transition plan agreed in June 2012 in the Swiss city have come to naught. U.N. diplomats say it is looking increasingly unlikely that such a conference will take place anytime soon, if at all.
Lyall Grant told reporters it was "not clear" if General Salim Idriss, who leads the rebel Supreme Military Council, would attend Friday's meeting with the Security Council.
Mariam Jalabi of the Syrian National Coalition said last week that Idriss was hoping to attend and was looking into securing a travel visa, but that nothing was confirmed.
Russia's U.N. mission did not respond immediately to a query about whether it would join the other 14 Security Council members. Russia is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally and arms supplier.
It was also not clear who would represent the rebel fighters if Idriss does not participate in Friday's meeting. Also in attendance will be Najib Ghadbian, the Syrian National Coalition's chief representative in the United States, the British U.N. mission said.
If Idriss comes to New York, U.N. diplomats say he would likely use the opportunity for meetings on the sidelines to lobby for weapons supplies. Secretary of State John Kerry will be in New York on Thursday and Friday to attend a special Security Council session on Africa's Great Lakes region, diplomats said.
The Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad for over two years are frustrated that U.S. plans to send weapons to them have been delayed. The United Nations says as many as 100,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been supplying the Syrian rebels with arms, security sources and diplomats say.