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International Peace Conference for Syria

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For the first time since the Syrian conflict began, the Syrian Government and opposition forces will meet to negotiate peace.

 

 

The long-awaited international peace conference between warring parties in Syria is set to begin in the Swiss town of Montreux on Jenuary 22, 2014.  After a day-long break, it will be followed by a second round of talks at UN Headquarters in Geneva on January 24. The conference will be headed by UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, in close cooperation with the US and Russia

 

The conference has been dubbed "Geneva II," and will follow up on the final communiqué  of the June 2012 "Action Group" peace talks calling for the creation of a transitional government, followed by elections.   At this year's peace conference, representatives from the Syrian Government will meet the Opposition at the negotiating table for the first time since the Syrian conflict began in March of 2011.  

 

After Pope Francis delivered an address on Christmas Day pleading for an end to the suffering and conflict in Syria, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad sent a message to the Pontiff indicating that his government is "ready for peace," but noted that "foreign intervention" must stop "...to enable the Syrians to determine their future and leadership through ballots."

 

Threatening the success of any agreement, however, is the opposition of the Syrian National Council, which is comprised in large part by the Islamic Front and al-Qaeda linked groups.  These groups oppose any negotiations with the Assad regime, and have threatened to leave the larger Syrian National Coalition should talks move forward.  

 

According to a spokesperson for Joint Special Representative Brahimi, the meeting in Montreux will invite delegations of all invited countries to express their views on a peace settlement.  The later discussions in Geneva, however, will be restricted to only to the two Syrian delegations and  the Joint Special Representative.

 

As of late December, close to 30 countries have agreed to send representatives to the Montreux peace talks, as well as the UN, the Arab League, and other international organizations.

 

Since the conflict in Syria began after the February 2011 "Day of Rage" protests, over 100,000 people have been killed and 8 million driven from their homes, with 2 million refugees settling in neighboring countries.