News / Middle East

UN Envoy to Meet Two Syrian Sides Thursday

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sits beside U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (L) as he addresses a news conference after the Geneva-2 peace talks in Montreux on January 22, 2014.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sits beside U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (L) as he addresses a news conference after the Geneva-2 peace talks in Montreux on January 22, 2014.
VOA News
U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he will meet Syrian opposition and government delegations separately Thursday, a day ahead of their first negotiations when he will try to bring them together to discuss ending that country's bloody civil war.

Brahimi, speaking to a news conference Wednesday after all-day ministerial talks in the Swiss city of Montreux, said he has "fairly clear indications" that the parties are ready to discuss prisoner swaps, humanitarian access and local cease-fires.

"We will try to see if we meet Friday morning separately and hopefully by Friday afternoon both sides will sit in one room," he said later.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the two sides that "enough is enough," imploring them to end a conflict he said had made Syria "a breeding ground for foreign extremists and terrorists." 

Ban was blunt, saying he did not expect any instant breakthroughs and the talks will be difficult. But he said the Syrian people are "desperately looking for relief from the nightmare in which they are trapped."

Assad's involvement

US Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference at the Geneva-2 talks in Montreux, Jan. 22, 2014.US Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference at the Geneva-2 talks in Montreux, Jan. 22, 2014.
US Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference at the Geneva-2 talks in Montreux, Jan. 22, 2014.
US Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference at the Geneva-2 talks in Montreux, Jan. 22, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also addressed reporters, saying there is no possibility for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power, calling him "the single greatest magnet for terrorism in the region."

He blamed Assad's forces for killing thousands of Syrians, using starvation as a weapon of war, and other possible war crimes. Kerry said the U.S. will continue to support the Syrian people "every step of the way."

The top U.S. diplomat left the door open for Iran to participate in Syria talks, saying Tehran could make a difference in ending the conflict.

Also Wednesday, opposition leader Ahmad Jarba accused Assad of Nazi-style war crimes. But Syrian Foreign Minister Walia al-Moallem insisted that Assad is staying on as president. He bitterly accused the West of backing terrorists -- the Syrian government's word for the opposition.

Iranian representatives were notably absent from the more than 40 delegations invited to the conference, shunned by the opposition and the West for rejecting calls for a transitional government. Iran's president said Tehran's exclusion meant the talks were unlikely to succeed.

Syria's government and opposition angrily spelled out their hostility in opening remarks to the U.N.-sponsored peace conference.

Opposition's stance

The United States and the Syrian opposition said Assad had lost his legitimacy when he crushed a once-peaceful protest movement.

Opposition leader Ahmad Jarba accused the Syrian president of Nazi-style war crimes and said the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition would never accept a role for him in a transitional administration.

The Syrian government response was blunt. Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi told reporters, "there will be no transfer of power and President Bashar Assad is staying."

Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said terrorists and foreign meddling had ripped his country apart.

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

  • Civilians gather after what they said was shelling by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Jazmati, Aleppo, Jan. 23, 2014.
  • Civilians carry belongings from rubble after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Jazmati, Aleppo, Jan. 23, 2014.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center shows Syrian residents and rescue workers carrying an injured man after an airstrike in Aleppo, Jan. 23, 2014.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter holds a dead bird as his comrades inspect the damage caused by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by government forces in Jabal al-Akrad, Latakia, Jan. 23, 2014.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters rest in front of a graffiti that reads 'Surely your Lord's assault is strict indeed' in the old city of Aleppo, Jan. 22, 2014.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters stand along a deserted street filled with garbage and rubble in the old city of Aleppo, Jan. 22, 2014.
  • Residents inspect a damaged site after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Karam Al-Beik, Aleppo, Jan. 21, 2014.
  • Smoke rises from what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Jabal al-Akrad, Latakia, Jan. 20, 2014.
  • Men react as others rush at the site of a car bomb attack at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey, in Idlib, Jan. 20, 2014.
  • Men transport a casualty after car bomb attacks at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey, in Idlib, Jan. 20, 2014.

Various factions

Moallem refused to give up the podium, despite requests from Ban, 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.''

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov challenged the U.S. insistence that Assad be excluded from a possible transitional administration, saying all sides must have a role and criticizing "one-sided interpretations" of the 2012 Geneva communique.

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

Meanwhile, fighting in Syria continued unabated. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes and air strikes around the country.

Nearly 9 million people - almost 40 percent of Syria's population - have been displaced by the conflict. According to U.N. relief officials, an estimated 250,000 people in Syria are out of the reach of aid deliveries. Millions more live in areas that are barely accessible.

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Comment Sorting
January 23, 2014 3:57 AM
The solution to the Balkan conflicts is valid in the ME as well.
Separate states for the ME minorities.
Don’t continue to support the current artificial states of Iraq-Syria-Lebanon-Libya.
Independent states for Kurds- Allay- Maron-Sunni-Shia-Benghazi-Tripoli.
The ME crisis is a follow up of WW1.
The root cause of the many conflicts is the creation of artificial states by
the European colonial power naming Iraq-Syria-Lebanon and Libya.

The west colonial powers than and the world powers today didnt take in
considerations the many rival ME groups with different religion, culture, tradition.

Example of the European arrogance that didn’t consider ME leaders warning
ahead of creation of the artificial states:

French foreign minister,Fabius,quoted the later in 2013 at UN Security Council the letter of Asad grandfather available in French government archives!

Asad grandfather Predicts Muslim Slaughter of minorities, praises Zionists.
He asked European not to create artificial states in ME including different
ethnic,tribal,religious and groups that are antagonistic to each other.
Sentences from the document:

*"" The spirit of fanaticism and narrow-mindedness, whose roots are
deep in the heart of the Arab Muslims toward all those who are not Muslim, is
the spirit that continually feeds the Islamic religion""
*"" A black future awaits minorities""

by: Mansur Abbas from: Iran
January 22, 2014 9:20 PM
what about Iran..?? Iranian Mullahs and Ayatollahs have been killing raping and torturing Sunni Muslims by the hundreds of thousands. we have send to the UN and the US documented evidence of thousands murders over the years - "UN Envoy to Meet Two Syrian Sides Thursday..." what about Iran??? Iranians are slaughtering us here - where is justice - you hypocrites

by: Dr Hans from: Germany
January 22, 2014 3:25 PM
as you know, i have refrained from commenting on Kerry's performance, thinking that he is new to the scene, unsophisticated, crass... but the accelerated idiotic moves of Kerry are unsettling to many of the US most closest allies... US enemies rejoice... US allies can't believe the crass stupidity of Kerry. Obama, please take him away from Europe - the guy is just plain stupid..!!

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