An international peace conference aiming to end the conflict in Syria will begin January 22 in Geneva, the UN announced on Monday, in a bid to halt the nearly 3-year old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
An international peace conference aiming to end the conflict in Syria will begin January 22 in Geneva, the first face-to-face talks between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to overthrow him, the United Nations said on Monday.
“The conflict in Syria has raged for too long. It would be unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction it has caused,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a statement Monday. "We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope," he added.
The United Nations is hoping for a peaceful transition in Syria, building on an agreement between world powers reached in June last year.
The deal calls for the warring sides to set up a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities, but leaves open the fate of Assad.
The announcement came as Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met senior US and Russian officials in Geneva in his latest effort to get negotiations on track to end a war, now in its third year, that has killed more than 100,000 people.
Brahimi, with backing from world powers, has been trying to convene a peace conference since May and had hoped that it could be held in mid-December. Brahimi is expected to hold a press conference later Monday to outline who will attend the January talks
The participation of Syria's ally Iran in the peace conference has been a major stumbling block as Washington has opposed it, while Russia has backed Tehran's attendance.
It was not clear from Ban's statement whether Iran would be invited. He said he expected "all regional and international partners to demonstrate their meaningful support for constructive negotiations".
World powers including the United States clinched a deal on curtailing Iran's nuclear programme at the weekend, in a sign of easing tensions between the longtime foes.
Brahimi has previously called for Iran to be included in the conference.
The United States and its allies say Iran must accept the agreement of June 2012 before an invitation can be extended to January's "Geneva 2" talks.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2013-11-25