Publishe Date: 2:25 PM - 1/22/2014 | Print

Ban Ki-Moon Opens Geneva II Conference

Politics - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened a long-awaited international peace conference for Syria in an effort yet to end the bloodshed in the Arab country.

The Syrian parties "can make a new beginning... This conference is your opportunity to show unity," Ban told representatives of Syria's two warring sides and of some 40 nations, gathered in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday, Al-Alam reported.

"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".

Nearly three years after the start of the fierce foreign-hatched conflict, Syria's opposing sides gather with world powers in Switzerland for the most serious effort yet to end the bloodshed.

Meeting for the first time since the start of the conflict, the two sides could not be further apart as the "Geneva II" conference kicks off on the shores of Lake Geneva.

The opposition is heading into the conference with a sole aim -- toppling the Syrian government -- while the government says any talk of removing the Syrian ruling party is a "red line" and it will not cross.

So expectations are low, but top global diplomats gathered for the conference believe that simply bringing the two sides together is a mark of some progress and could be an important first step.

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, western powers and their regional allies - especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey - are supporting the militants operating inside the country.

According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over two years.

The UN also says more than four million other Syrians will be forced out of their homes in 2014 by the escalating conflict in the country.

Two million Syrians are expected to take refuge outside the country while another 2.25 million are predicted to be internally displaced next year.

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