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Syria conflict: Geneva peace talks scheduled for January

Posted Nov 25, 2013 by Eileen Kersey
The long-promised peace conference aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis has been given a start date of January 22. The conference will be held in Geneva and will be the first talks to include representatives of the regime and the opposition.
People carry as they lower the bodies of the five civilian activists  who were killed during what ac...
People carry as they lower the bodies of the five civilian activists, who were killed during what activists said was an ambush, into their graves during their funeral in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus November 24, 2013. Fierce fighting to the east of Damascus has killed more than 160 people in the past two days as Syrian rebels struggle to break a months-long blockade by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad
With permission by Reuters / Bassam Khabieh
As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, it would be "unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction" in Syria, reports BBC News.
The talks, dubbed Geneva II, still face many hurdles, not least President Bashar al Assad and his role in a post civil war Syria. Who will represent the opposition in such talks is also tricky. There are breakaway factions in Syria and the opposition is fractured. The west recognizes the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). In fact, it actively supports the SNC.
In September AlJazeera reported "13 rebel groups, including elements of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, slammed the SNC for no longer representing their interests."
So, although the UN has made some headway, there are still issues which will have to be resolved before the January conference begins.
US and Russian diplomats have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure the talks take place. The aim is to find a political solution to the Syria crisis. Monday, Mr Ban acknowledged the work of these US and Russian diplomats and also expressed appreciation to UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahim.
The UN hopes that all parties will name their representatives by the New Year.
In June 2012 the UN-backed Action Group for Syria met in the Swiss city of Geneva. This group comprises the "UN, Arab League and EU; China, France, Russia, the UK and the US; and Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, the last three representing various Arab ministerial bodies."
The Geneva Communique was issued following that meeting. The purpose of the Geneva talks scheduled for January is to fully implement that communique.
Announcing the date set for Geneva II, Ban Ki-moon said "We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope". The BBC report continues:
The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria.
The conflict in Syria has raged for too long. It would be unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction it has caused.
The 32-month-old civil war has claimed thousands of lives and wrecked Syria.
Reuters reports:
Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, said the goal was to agree a mutually acceptable transitional administration as well as the other elements of an outline peace plan drafted by the Western powers and Russia at Geneva in June last year.
Sunday's Iran deal adds a new dimension to Syrian peace talks but it remains to be seen whether the effect is a positive one. Will representatives from Iran and Saudi Arabia attend Geneva II?
One final question — will Geneva II get off the ground? With the Syrian opposition still insisting that the removal of Assad is a precondition of their representatives attending Geneva II could fall at the first hurdle.