News / Middle East

    Syria Conference Opens with Acrimony

    Syria Conference Opens with Acrimonyi
    X
    January 22, 2014 11:09 PM
    The long-awaited second international conference on Syria opened with confrontational statements by the country's government and opposition Wednesday, while their main international backers, Russia and the United States, also presented opposing viewpoints. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the conference site in the Swiss resort town of Montreux.
    Al Pessin
    The long-awaited second international conference on Syria opened with confrontational statements by the country's government and opposition Wednesday, and their main international backers, Russia and the United States, also presented opposing viewpoints.  

    In the peaceful setting located between a placid lake and snow-capped mountains, the subject was war, rape, mutilation and child murder. Accusations flew in all directions, and participants presented starkly different views of Syria's future.
     
    The Geneva II Talks

    • Delegates gather in Montreux, Switzerland on Jan. 22
    • Talks move to Geneva on Jan. 24 and will be facilitated by Lakhdar Brahimi
    • Syrian government delegation is led by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
    • Opposition delegation is led by Syrian National Coalition leader Ahmad al-Jarba
    The president of the opposition coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, held up a photo of a mutilated body to help make his point,  accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of using terrorist fighters from the Lebanese group Hezbollah and troops from Iran's Revolutionary Guard to kill and oppress Syrian civilians. After accusing the Syrian leader of Nazi-style war crimes, Al-Jarba said the only aim of the conference, in keeping with the communique of the previous meeting 18 months ago, is to replace Assad with a transitional government.
     
    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem (L) and his delegation take part in the so-called Geneva II peace talks, Jan. 22, 2014.Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem (L) and his delegation take part in the so-called Geneva II peace talks, Jan. 22, 2014.
    x
    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem (L) and his delegation take part in the so-called Geneva II peace talks, Jan. 22, 2014.
    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem (L) and his delegation take part in the so-called Geneva II peace talks, Jan. 22, 2014.
    ​The regime's representative, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, was defiant, accusing the opposition and its foreign supporters of bringing terrorism to Syria. Al-Moualem addressed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry directly, saying no one can declare that President Assad is illegitimate.
     
    Secretary Kerry had done just that in his speech to the opening session.
     
    “There is no way, no way possible in the immagination, that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern,” Kerry said, adding that the only way forward is to create a transition government, without Assad.

    The U.S. State Department called Moallem's speech "inflammatory," saying it was not in line with the aims of the gathering, intended to begin the process of forming a transitional government.

    Moallem refused to give up the podium, despite requests from Ban Ki-moon, who asked him to refrain from inflammatory statements.  Moallem angrily told the U.N. chief, "You live in New York.  I live in Syria, I have the right to give the Syrian version here in this forum.  After three years of suffering, this is my right.''
     
    The 2012 Geneva meeting urged Syria to:

    • Establish a transitional government
    • Hold a national dialogue
    • Review the consitution and legal system
    • Prepare for free and multi-party elections
    • Have women represented in the transition
    • Source: UN
    Kerry's partner in calling for the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, has a different view of the meaning of the communique from the previous meeting.
     
    Lavrov told the diplomats from dozens of countries that radical groups are trying to impose their own vision on Syria. He also noted that the direct talks among the Syrian parties, which begin Friday in Geneva, will not be easy or quick, but said they do have a realistic chance of success.
     
    That is an optimistic view compared to many analysts, who note that the two sides don't even want to talk about the same things. The opposition says it will only discuss Assad's departure. The Syrian government wants to talk about fighting “terrorism.”
     
    The experts say there might be agreement on local ceasefires, the creation of humanitarian aid corridors and some prisoner exchanges. But even that is not certain, and some analysts say the best that can be hoped for is agreement to meet again.

    Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which backs the Sunni rebels, called for Iran and its Shi'ite Lebanese ally Hezbollah to withdraw forces from Syria.

    But Iranian representatives were notably not among the more than 40 delegations invited to the conference, shunned by the opposition and the West for rejecting calls for a transitional government.  Its president said Tehran's exclusion meant the talks were unlikely to succeed.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the conference saying the challenge of finding a peaceful solution to the crisis is "formidable," but that having the Syrian parties present raises hope.

    The first two days of talks will give the delegations an opportunity to address the peace effort before the process shifts Friday to discussions between only the Syrian sides and U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.


    Mark Snowiss contributed to this report from Washington.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: MikeBarnett from: USA
    January 22, 2014 4:25 PM
    The negotiations among the Syrian factions are unlikely to create a transitional government that does not include President Assad because he appears to be winning on the ground. The exclusion of Iran is unhelpful because Iran sends arms and instructors to Syria in the same manner as the Sunni Arab states that send arms and fighters to Syria. It would be best to have all involved parties present for any agreement to avoid decisions by absent forces to continue the conflict to achieve their goals.

    US Sunni muslims have fought in Syria; some have been arrested and convicted of terrorism; and some face arrest warrants if they return to the US. The US government demands a change in Syria's government that has not been achieved on the ground. The US is not as neutral as it wants to claim.

    China and Russia sell arms to President Assad's government because it remains the legal government despite the claims of others. Providing arms to rebels would be a legal act of war against Syria and illegal interference in its internal affairs. If the rebels achieve victory, they may not appreciate those who sold arms to them because their supporters one day may help other rebels depose them. Further, the most effective rebels on the ground have been al Qaeda and those with similar views, and their victory might not restore peace and stability for Syria and its neighbors.

    by: Baldur Dasche from: Botswanaland
    January 22, 2014 7:59 AM
    We have to put aside or petty diffferences and find some unity to help us make the hard choices and move ahead into Churchills's "broad and sunlit upands".

    Especially the Assad government, isolated and friendless as it is. Assad needs to realize that the time for his retirement is long past and that unless he wants to meet 'justis' sitting beat-up on the hood of what once was his personal Land Rover, like another evil dictator did, he should take advantage or the reasonability of those who truly love Syria and leave for Moscow asap.

    That's the ONLY reason the Russians aren't sitting this one out, too. They're needed to make the dream come true.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora