World Bulletin / News Desk
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that the goal of a planned international conference on Syria - dubbed "Geneva II" - scheduled for January 22 would be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Addressing journalists at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Ban said, "This is a mission of hope," and described the upcoming conference as "a vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria."
He added that it would be "unforgivable not to seize this opportunity" and reiterated that the conflict remains "the world's greatest threat to peace and security" which can only be solved through political means.
The fighting has killed more than 100,000, driven almost nine million from their homes, left countless missing and detained, and terrible violations of human rights, the secretary-general said.
Ban urged all parties to begin working and take steps to help the conference succeed, "including toward the cessation of violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees and return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced to their homes".
"I expect all partners and parties to demonstrate their support for constructive negotiations. All must show vision and leadership," he said.
Ban announced Monday that he would convene in Geneva on January 22, the long-sought international conference on Syria bringing together the Syrian government and the opposition to a negotiating table for the first time since the conflict started in March 2011.
Kerry: Geneva-2 'best opportunity' to form transitional government
US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday emphasized the importance of a planned peace conference between the Syrian opposition and the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
"We have long underscored that there is no military solution to the violence in Syria that has taken more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions. The conference on January 22 is the best opportunity to implement the Geneva Communiqué and form a new transitional governing body through mutual consent -- an important step toward ending the suffering of the Syrian people and the destabilizing impact of this conflict on the region," said Kerry in a press release.
Kerry acknowledged that the talks were likely to face significant challenges, and that the US "will continue to work in concert with the UN and our partners on remaining issues, including which countries will be invited to attend and what the agenda will be to advance the Geneva Communiqué framework for political transition."
Still, America's top diplomat said that the Syrian people cannot afford to wait for delegates to reach Geneva.
"The thousands of men, women, and children suffering in Syria today cannot wait for us to meet in Geneva for their cries to be heard. The Assad regime must stop using starvation as a weapon of war and immediately begin providing greater humanitarian access to besieged communities," he said.
He added that the international community must do more "to change behavior on the ground."
Determined to see Assad go
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that the US is committed to Assad’s departure from power.
“The President does still believe that, and, more importantly, the Syrian people believe that. That is the goal of these talks that are scheduled for Geneva in January,” said Earnest while speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One of the need for Assad to go.
He added, “There should be an opportunity here for a political transition. It's our view that that's the only way that we can resolve this conflict. And we're hopeful that by bringing both sides to the table, we can get started on that process.”
Recent weeks have seen the Syrian government make significant gains in the outskirts of Damascus, and in the north near Aleppo.
Rebels pushed back over the weekend with offensives in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, and in Aleppo’s southeast.
More than 160 people have died thus far in the East Ghouta offensive.
The small rural area has long been besieged by the forces of the Assad government.Last Mod: 26 Kasım 2013, 10:20