News / Middle East

UN Says Syria Peace Talks Set for January

FILE - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a news conference at U.N. Headquarters in New York.
FILE - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a news conference at U.N. Headquarters in New York.
Margaret Besheer
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Monday that the Syrian government and opposition will meet at the negotiating table in Geneva for the first time on January 22 - though neither side has confirmed this.

The U.N. chief told reporters in New York that the meeting will be a “mission of hope” and would have a clear objective.

“And we have a clear goal: the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, including the establishment, based on mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities,”  he said.

This had been a sticking point for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its ally Russia, which interpreted it as an attempt to oust Mr. Assad.

Mr. Ban said for the first time the Syrian sides will meet at the negotiating table instead of on the battlefield, and he urged all parties with influence on the conflict to support the talks.

“I expect all partners and parties to demonstrate their support for constructive negotiations," he said. "All must show vision and leadership.”

Mr. Ban said the conflict, which has raged on for nearly three years, has left more than 100,000 dead and displaced almost nine million more inside the country and in the region, putting what he termed an “unacceptable burden” on Syria’s neighbors.

Iran's participation in question

The U.N. chief did not specify which Syrian opposition factions will attend the peace conference. He also did not say whether Iran will be invited to the negotiations.

Western powers have expressed reservations about Tehran’s possible participation because it has not accepted the terms of the first Geneva conference’s communique. Tehran has also provided fighters to President Assad and supports Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has militants fighting alongside government forces against the armed opposition.

In Geneva, Mr. Ban’s special representative on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, told reporters that the complete list of participants is still under discussion. On Iran, he said both the U.N. chief and the head of the Arab League have expressed their willingness to have Tehran attend.

Brahimi said he would meet again on December 20 with representatives from the United States and Russia, who have been helping to organize the conference.

He said he is in touch with both the Syrian government and opposition, and has asked them to name their delegations as early as possible, preferably before the end of this year.

“Because I think it’s important that we meet them and speak to them and listen to them," Brahimi said. "Because this conference is really for the Syrians to come to Geneva to talk to one another and to hopefully start a credible, workable, effective peace process for their country.”

Brahimi said all issues would be on the table at Geneva, including what form the transitional governing authority would take and what powers it would have.

In advance of the talks, Brahimi urged both sides to undertake some confidence-building measures, including halting violence and releasing prisoners and detainees.

The Geneva Two conference has been delayed for months due to disputes about who will attend, and under what conditions. Secretary-General Ban said it will be "unforgivable not to seize (the) opportunity" of the January gathering.

The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 as peaceful protests against President Assad's autocratic rule and coincided with a wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.  The Syrian unrest evolved into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs