UN: Syria peace talks best chance to deliver peace

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Syrian refugee children play beside tents in Domiz refugee camp. (Photo: UNHCR/B.Sokol)

The US-Russian initiative to bring warring Syrian parties to the negotiating table is the best chance to end months of fighting, deliver peace and save lives, according to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Speaking in Geneva Mr. Ban said although significant progress has been made in the convening of an international peace conference for Syria, there were several stumbling blocks including the participation of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

He said while it was important that the Syrian opposition attend the conference as a united group, the government delegation must also be fully empowered to negotiate.

"The people of Syria want peace and hope. Yet all they see is death upon death. All they hear is talks about talks. People are dying. Families are fleeing. Syria's fires are spreading. They may soon engulf the region.I once again call on all those with influence to hear the cry of the Syrian people and the call of history:  Act and act now. We expect that those delegations particularly those from opposition groups will send their delegations united and coherent. We also expect that the government delegation will also be fully empowered so that they can fully engage in negotiations with the joint special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. There is another issue of scope of participation particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia. Member states have not been able to agree on whether their voices need to be heard and in what way."

On Mali, the Secretary General said he was concerned about the humanitarian situation in the country where nearly 475,000 people have been displaced and about 1.4 million in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

He also said there were serious human rights violations in the country including the use of children by armed groups, rape and enforced disappearances which must be investigations and perpetrators held accountable.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2.26

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