UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he would convene in Geneva on 22 January the long-sought international conference on Syria bringing together the Government and the opposition to a negotiating table for the first time since the conflict started in March 2011.
“This is a mission of hope,” Mr. Ban said addressing journalists at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Mr. Ban called the upcoming conference, known as “Geneva II”, 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, the UN press service said.
The goal of Geneva II would be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on 30 June 2012.
The communiqué, which has been endorsed by the UN Security Council, lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among these, the establishment – based on mutual consent – of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities.
“I expect all partners and parties to demonstrate their support for constructive negotiations,” Mr. Ban said. “All must show vision and leadership.”
He added that it would be “unforgiveable” 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, Mr. Ban said.
In addition, it continues to send tremors through the region and has forced unacceptable burdens on Syria’s neighbors, he stressed.
Mr. Ban urged all parties to begin working now 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”, the UN press service informs.
All this steps are very important and very good intended but some of them unrealistic as the return of many of the refugees and internally displaced to their homes, because due to the level of destruction in some areas they don’t have where to return.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy on Syria said in Geneva also that this Conference “It is a huge opportunity for peace that shouldn’t be wasted. This being so, we very strongly appeal to the Syrian government and to the opposition not to wait for the conference to do some confidence-building measures, diminish the violence, release prisoners and detainees of all sorts.”
As is known, the conference has been delayed since proposed last May by the US and Russia because of preconditions set by the opposition and the regime and the crisis of the Eastern Ghouta chemical weapons attack that halted the diplomacy efforts for months. The opposition represented in the Syrian National Coalition only wans to negotiate Assad ousting and doesn’t want regime members in the transitional government and Bashar Assad won’t negotiate his presidency. Meanwhile the situation on the ground has changed a lot, not only with the crisis of the chemical weapons and the advances of governmental forces on the ground but with the advance of armed groups not controlled by the Syrian National Coalition.
What has changed now to set a date for the Conference? Maybe the recent international deal with Iran on its nuclear program modified a little the situation among the “patrons” of the proposed talks now in a diplomatic momentum in all fronts.
But on the ground things seem the same. The Syrian National Coalition said that they will not change their preconditions: the release of prisoners and relief for besieged towns, and that the current president, Bashar Assad, has no part to play in the new transitional government. According to Al Jazeera, they also said they would need the support of all rebel brigades on the ground, including al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, before it began peace talks, something very difficult to achieve.