Syria peace talks to be held in January

Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks in Geneva on January 22 in attempt to halt the country's civil war, United Nations announces.

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GENEVA // Syria’s government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on January 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly three-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announced yesterday.

Previous attempts to bring the two sides together have failed mainly because of disputes over who should represent the Syrian opposition and government, and whether Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers should be at the table.

“We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope,” UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s office said in a statement. “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.”

One of the key goals would be the “the establishment, based on mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities,” the statement said, adding: “The Secretary-General expects that the Syrian representatives will come to Geneva with a clear understanding that this is the objective, and with a serious intention to end a war that has already left well over 100,000 dead, driven almost 9 million from their homes, left countless missing and detained, sent tremors through the region and forced unacceptable burdens on Syria’s neighbours.”

It will be the second time that major powers have convened a Syria peace conference in Geneva.

The road map for a Syrian political transition, adopted in June 2012 in the Swiss city, starts with establishing a transitional governing body with full executive powers agreed to by both sides and ends with elections.

But there has been no agreement on how to implement it, and one of the biggest sticking points has been the future role of President Bashar Al Assad.

* Associated Press