Opposing parties dig in at Geneva II conference on Syria

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Opposing parties dig in at Geneva II conference on Syria

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Geneva II’s peace talks on how to resolve the Syrian crisis have begun in earnest. Delegates from Russia, the United States, the United Nations, Britain, the European Union, Syria and other countries are trying to find a way to restore peace to the country.

Nobody is under any illusions as to the political obstacles. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov outlined the issue: “Our task here is to put an end to the tragic conflict going on in Syria, which is causing the Syrian people a lot of suffering. A conflict that is destroying an ancient land. We cannot let this wave of upheavals have an impact on neighbouring countries.”

Syria’s President Bashar al Assad faces growing calls – especially from the US – to step aside and even face trial in an international criminal court.

Addressing the conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “We see only one option, a negotiated transition government formed by mutual consent… That means that Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transition government.”

And in a pointed reference to Kerry, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said: “Those who wish to speak in the name of Syria can be neither traitors nor collaborators with the enemy.”

The deeply entrenched positions of both sides underscores the difficulties faced by mediators.

Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba was equally clear about the direction he wished to take: “I ask you to transfer Assad’s powers to an interim government that will lay the first stone in building the new Syria.”

The number of dead in Syria has reportedly topped 100,000. The talks come too late for them, but the pressure is now on negotiators to save the survivors.