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Sparring over Assad as Syria peace conference begins

(From left): UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov join hands after their meeting ahead of the in Syria peace talks in Montreux on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: GARY CAMERON

Syrians bear the primary responsibility for ending the civil war in their country, the U.N. Secretary-General said on Wednesday, opening peace talks that he acknowledged face “formidable” challenges.

Ban Ki-moon called on the Syrian government and the Western-backed opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith as they meet face-to-face for the first time.

“We know that it has been an extremely difficult path to reach this point. We have lost valuable time and many, many lives. Let me not mince words, the challenges before you and before all of us are formidable. But your presence here raises hope,” he said in his opening remarks.

The world’s most powerful diplomats including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart gathered in Montreux, Switzerland, for the talks, which had been in doubt just two days ago.

But the Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group representing the opposition, is in disarray, with little influence on rebel brigades fighting in Syria. And Iran, which is one of President Bashar Assad’s major backers, was invited and then disinvited at the last minute.

Hopes slim for Syria peace talks: Rouhani

Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says he believes there is little hope of success for the Syrian peace talks.

According to the presidential website, president.ir, Mr. Rouhani says hopes are slim because some of the countries attending the talks “are behind instability” in Syria.

Mr. Rouhani spoke in the wake of a diplomatic snub to Iran after the U.N. withdrew its invitation to Tehran to attend the talks.

Iran has been Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main regional ally and a staunch supporter of his government.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 8:45:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/sparring-over-assad-as-syria-peace-conference-begins/article5605709.ece

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