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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs