NEW YORK – After months of planning and debate the UN has set a date for the
Geneva II conference, Ban Ki-Moon, UN secretary-general, announced on Monday
that the conference will take place on January 22, 2014.
“At long last,
and for the first time, the Syrian Government and opposition will meet at the
negotiating table instead of the battlefield,” Ban told reporters.
is a mission of hope. We go with a clear understanding: The Geneva conference is
the 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.”
“I expect all partners and
parties to demonstrate their support for constructive negotiations,” Ban said.
“All must show vision and leadership...
all parties can and must begin
now to take steps to help the Geneva conference succeed, including [steps]
toward the cessation of violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees and
return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced people to their
Ban did not take any questions from
Representatives of the Kurdish National Coalition will be
included in the opposition Syrian Coalition at the conference, according to a
statement from the US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The goal of
the conference is “full implementation of the Geneva Communiquè,” Psaki said,
referring to the document that participating countries, including the US and
Russia, drew up at the first Geneva conference on June 30, 2012, that agreed on
the broad brush strokes of what a political transition in Syria should look
The first Geneva conference failed to stop the Syrian conflict,
necessitating a second conference.
“Negotiations represent the best
opportunity to end the bloodshed,” the US State Department said. “The United
States echoes the calls by humanitarian organizations for the Syrian government
and other parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access to all those
The United Nations is hoping for a peaceful transition in
Syria, building on an agreement between world powers reached in June last
The deal calls for the warring sides to set up a transitional
governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security
entities, but leaves open the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
announcement came as Syrian mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met senior US and Russian
officials in Geneva in his latest effort to get negotiations on track to end the
war, now in its third year, which has killed more than 100,000
Brahimi, with backing from world powers, has been trying to
convene a peace conference since May and had hoped it could be held in
The participation of Syria’s ally, Iran, in the peace
conference has been a major stumbling block as Washington has opposed it, while
Russia has backed Tehran’s attendance, as has Brahimi.
It was not clear
from Ban’s statement whether Iran would be invited to the Geneva II talks. He
said he expected “all regional and international partners to demonstrate their
meaningful support for constructive negotiations.”
Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Gennady Gatilov said it was not yet agreed whether Iran should be
invited, Interfax news agency reported.
A senior European Union diplomat
involved in issues relating to Iran and Syria said that the United States has
been holding this up, but after Sunday’s nuclear deal, “I cannot imagine
Washington continuing to object to an Iranian presence.”
from Ban says the basis of the Geneva II meeting is the world powers’ Geneva
declaration of June 2012, so Iran would just have to acknowledge the Geneva
communiqué, the diplomat said.
The US and its allies say Iran must accept
the June 2012 agreement before it can be invited to Geneva II.
Iran publicly endorses the Geneva communiqué, and therefore makes clear that it
supports the purpose of the Geneva II conference, it is hard to see how it can
play a constructive role in finding a political solution to the conflict,” a
spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said.
Secretary William Hague said “a political transition would mean that Assad can
have no future role in Syria.”
A US official said Secretary of State John
Kerry would attend the January talks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov blamed the Syrian opposition for delays in convening the conference,
saying it had repeatedly set out conditions for participation, including Assad’s
exit, which Moscow says cannot be a precondition for a peace
Lavrov, speaking in Rome during a trip with Russian President
Vladimir Putin, said: “It could have been held much earlier if the opposition
had felt responsibility for its country and had not put forward preconditions
when we met in September, October, November,” state-run Russian news agency RIA