• Syria dialogue a day of hope, says UN chief

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    United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (right) opens the so-called Geneva II peace talks next to UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday in Montreux. AFP PHOTO

    United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (right) opens the so-called Geneva II peace talks next to UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday in Montreux. AFP PHOTO

    MONTREUX, Switzerland: United Nations (UN) leader Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged Syria’s warring sides to seize the opportunity to resolve their conflict, as he opened a peace conference in Switzerland.

    “After nearly three painful years of conflict and suffering in Syria, today is a day of hope,” Ban said. “You have an enormous opportunity and responsibility to render a service to the people of Syria.”

    The UN chief urged the warring sides, who were meeting for the first time since the start of the conflict in March 2011, to act urgently to end the crisis estimated to have killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

    “All people are looking to you gathered here today to end the unspeaking suffering,” Ban said, also calling on the representatives of some 40 nations and international organizations gathered at the conference to step up.

    International powers must “do everything within their power to help them achieve these goals,” he said.

    “How many more will die in Syria . . . if this opportunity is lost? Ban asked.

    “There is no alternative to ending the violence . . . Let us prove to all that the world is able to unite,” he said.

    Meanwhile, United States Secretary of State John Kerry said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be part of any new transitional government.

    “We need to deal with reality here . . . mutual consent which is what has brought us here for a transitional government means that that government cannot be formed by someone that is objected to by one side or not,” Kerry said in an opening statement.

    “That means that Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transitional government. There is no way, not possible in the imagination, that the man who has lead the brutal response to his own people could regain legitimacy to govern.”

    “One man and those who supported him can no longer hold an entire nation and the region hostage,” said Kerry, who with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov has led efforts to morganize the peace conference since May.

    “The right to lead the country does not come from torture, nor barrel bombs nor Scud missiles,” the US top diplomat said. “It comes from the consent of the people. And it’s hard to imagine how that consent could be forthcoming at this important time.”

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, on the other hand, chided Kerry after the American diplomat ruled out any role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a new government.

    “Mr. Kerry, no one in the world has the right to confer or withdraw the legitimacy of a president, a constitution or a law, except for the Syrians themselves,” Muallem said.

    AFP

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