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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid