Syria peace conference set for Jan. 22

The Geneva II conference will act as a follow-up to a conference held in June 2012

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The United Nations has announced that Geneva II, the Syrian peace conference aimed at bringing government and opposition negotiators together, is set to take place on Jan. 22.

U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon said the conference would be “a mission of hope,” Agence France-Presse reported.

“We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope,” he said in a released statement. He did not clarify which parties would attend the conference and made no mention of whether Iran would be invited, a question that has divided the United States and Russia in the past, according to Reuters.

But he stressed to both sides that the aiming of the meeting will be to carry out a declaration adopted by the major powers in June 2010 calling for a transitional government.

“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,” Ban said through his spokesman, according to AFP.

The so-called Geneva II conference will act as a follow-up to a conference held in June 2012, which resulted in world powers issuing a call for a transitional government in Syria.

“The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.

“Its goal is the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué of June 30, 2012, including the establishment, based on mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities,” he added.

International efforts have struggled to broker talks between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition groups since the start of the conflict in March 2011.

U.N. envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met Monday with officials including Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, as well as Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, in a bid to decide the date, AFP reported.

Russia, Assad’s key world-power ally, has been pressing the Syrian government to cooperate on the conference. The United States, Britain and France have been working to encourage the Syrian opposition.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has agreed to attend the conference. But its authority is threatened by Islamist and other militant groups which have warned that anyone taking part in talks will be deemed a traitor.

The coalition has also demanded that Assad step down, while the government, in turn, has insisted that the president’s future cannot be a matter for discussion.

Syria’s bloody conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives in its two-and-a-half years.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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