UNITED NATIONS —
With less than two weeks until a planned international peace conference on Syria is to be held in Switzerland, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for all parties to work toward a political solution.
The U.N. chief made his request at his first news conference of the year.
“I appeal to the warring parties, and all those with influence over them, to recognize that there is no military solution to this conflict and to work for a political solution that implements the Geneva Communiqué," said Ban.
The Geneva Communiqué was agreed at an earlier peace conference in June 2012. It calls for a transitional governing body with full executive powers that would be formed on the basis of mutual consent.
The secretary-general acknowledged that there are differences in expectations for the upcoming conference, which has become known as Geneva 2. He said the main goal would be how to implement the Geneva Communiqué.
“Nobody thinks it will be an easy process; it will be extremely difficult," he said.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in Paris with foreign ministers from countries who support Syria’s opposition. They will try to bridge serious differences within the group ahead of the Geneva talks.
Invitations went out earlier this week to 30 countries, as well as the heads of the Arab League, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union, to attend the Geneva talks. Iran, though an influential regional player, has so far not been invited to participate.
The U.N. Secretary-General will oversee the conference, first in an international high-level format in the town of Montreux, Switzerland, on January 22. Then negotiations are planned for January 24 at the U.N. complex in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition delegations, facilitated by Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi.
Ban called Friday for an urgent halt to the violence that has killed more than 100,000 Syrians.
“More immediately, there must be an end to all violence, including the Syrian government’s use of barrel bombs and other heavy weapons that kill and maim so indiscriminately," said Ban.
He said that he expects all countries participating in Geneva to come with a “strong and determined will” to help move the peace talks forward and end the violence that has plagued Syria for nearly three years.