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Syria talks in Geneva `vehicle for peaceful tansition`: Ban Ki-moon

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 21:24

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

New York: For the first time in nearly three years of civil war that has been plaguing the country, Syrian government and the opposition will meet on the negotiating table on January 22 in Geneva, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Monday.

“At long last and for the first time, the Syrian government and opposition will meet at the negotiating table instead of the battlefield," UN head Ban Ki-moon told reporter at the UN headquarters.

Expecting the talks to be “the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that both the sides must try their best to make the peace conference a success.

"The fighting has raged on far too long -- with more than 100,000 dead, almost nine million driven from their homes, countless missing and detained, and terrible violations of human rights," Ban said.

Meanwhile, the rebel group Free Syian Army (FSA) has said that it will not be atending the Geneva confeence on Jan 22.

FSA`s Supreme Military Council chief Gen Salim Idris said that he will continue fighting to oust Assad, reports said.

The talks aimed at finding a solution to the three-year long civil war in Syria which has killed over 100,000 people, are being held after marathon rounds of discussions to convince the Syrian government and the opposition to come to the negotiating table.

Previous efforts ended in a dead-end with the Syrian opposition putting up conditions including Assad’s stepping down and the Syrian regime refusing to accept any pre-conditions.

However, both the sides have finally agreed to attend the Geneva Conference on Jan 22, the date for which was decided at a meeting attended by the US, Russia and UN at the UN’s European headquarters, said UN envoy Lakhda Brahimi. They would meet again on Dec. 20 to gear up for the conference.

However, it is not yet clear who will be representing the Syrian government and the opposition at the talks so the UN envoy said he had urged the rival parties to name their delegations as early as possible, hopefully before the end of the year.

The word is not yet clear on the participation of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Hailing the conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry called it as “best opportunity” to form a transitional government to steer the country out of the civil war.

"In order to end the bloodshed and give the Syrian people a chance to meet their long-deferred aspirations, Syria needs new leadership," Kerry said in a statement.

"To contain the growing threat from extremism and foreign fighters within Syria, and to ensure respect for Syria`s territorial sovereignty, we cannot delay the work of establishing a transitional government," Kerry added.

"The Geneva Conference is the best opportunity to implement the Geneva Communique and form a new, transitional governing body through mutual consent - an important step toward ending the suffering of the Syrian people and the destabilising impact of this conflict on the region," he said.

First Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 13:55

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