Peace negotiations between the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition are scheduled to take place for the first time in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 22, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has announced.
The goal of the conference, known as Geneva II, is to establish a transitional government, by mutual consent of the two sides, which will have full executive power – a goal laid out in a communique following an international conference in Geneva in June 2012. The list of participants for the January conference has not yet been finalized.
Mr. Ban called the upcoming dialogue a “mission of hope,” saying that failure to seize this opportunity to end the conflict in Syria would be “unforgiveable.”
That conflict started in March 2011 when peaceful anti-government protesters were met with brutal force by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. In the ensuing months, more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed —-including over 1400 in a chemical weapons attack by the regime -- and millions have fled their homes. Reports of torture, starvation, and sexual violence are widespread.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the efforts, particularly of UN Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, to bring together the Syrian regime, the opposition and the international community. In a statement, he called the conference on January 22 the “best opportunity to implement the Geneva Communique and form a new transitional governing body through mutual consent.”
In order to end the bloodshed and give the Syrian people a chance to meet their long-deferred aspirations, Syria needs new leadership."
Mr. Kerry said, “In order to end the bloodshed and give the Syrian people a chance to meet their long-deferred aspirations, Syria needs new leadership.”
He warned that the growing threat from extremism and foreign fighters make it essential that the work of establishing a transitional government cannot be delayed. But he noted, “The thousands of men, women and children suffering in Syria today cannot wait for us to meet in Geneva for their cries to be heard. The Assad regime must stop using starvation as a weapon of war and immediately begin providing greater humanitarian access to besieged communities. The international community must be proactive and diligent in drawing greater attention to this issue and putting the necessary pressure in place to change behavior on the ground.”