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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.