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No Date Set for Syrian Peace Talks

  • Lisa Schlein

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, April 2013.

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, April 2013.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for an end to the violence in Syria. He said it is urgent to convene a peace conference to achieve a lasting political solution to this ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Ban is appealing to all those with influence to act now to end what he calls "Syria’s huge and heart-rending humanitarian crisis".

“The people of Syria want peace and hope. Yet all they see is death upon death," he said. "All they hear is talk after talks. People are dying. Families are fleeing. Syria’s fires are spreading. They may soon engulf the whole region.”

It is estimated that more than 100,000 people in Syria have been killed in more than two years of war. Millions of people are displaced inside Syria and well over 1.5 million refugees have sought asylum in neighboring countries.

The secretary-general said the only way out of this morass is a political solution. And he notes the U.S.-Russian initiative to bring Syrian parties to the negotiating table is the best chance for a lasting solution - a solution that he noted will deliver peace and save lives.

However, getting the warring parties around the Geneva peace table is proving to be a daunting task. A preparatory meeting between U.S. and Russian officials, mediated by UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, on June 25 failed to set a date for a second round of peace negotiations in Geneva.

Ban said it is expected that parties from both the government side and opposition groups will send delegations to the talks. However, he said no date can be confirmed for holding the conference until the two sides decide who will represent them.

“We expect that those delegations, particularly from the opposition groups, will send their delegation united and coherent, who can really represent the voices and positions of opposition groups,” Ban said.

The secretary-general said another issue that remains to be resolved is the possible participation of Iran and Saudi Arabia in the peace conference. Russia wants both countries to be represented at the talks. The United States is opposed to Iran’s participation. The Syrian regime is opposed to including Saudi Arabia in the talks.