Syria Peace Talks Open—Unpleasantly
Sides take firm stances in opening speeches
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jan 22, 2014 7:50 AM CST
UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, left, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, right, attend the so-called Geneva II peace talks in Montreux Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

(Newser) – With more than 100,000 dead in a divided Syria, government and opposition leaders are in Switzerland today for year-in-the-making international peace talks. Direct talks haven't even begun yet (that comes Friday), but so far, the tone at the "Geneva II" talks has been far from friendly, the BBC reports. "Syria the independent state will do all that is necessary to defend itself," said Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, in a more than 30-minute speech that blew past his 10-minute limit in defiance of Ban Ki-moon's efforts to hold him to it—and Ban's requests that he not use inflammatory language. The New York Times says opening speakers actually only had seven minutes, and that at one point Muallem told Ban, "You live in New York. I live in Syria."

Ban wasn't his only target: Muallem added, directly to John 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." The divisions between the US and Russia also "immediately came to the fore," the Times reports. Kerry said the US sees "only one option: negotiating a transition government born by mutual consent. That means that Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transition government." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov countered that the gathering had to "refrain from any attempt to predetermine the outcome of the process." The BBC notes that 40 foreign ministers will speak before the direct talks kick off; it will be the first time the Syrian government comes face-to-face with the opposition Syrian National Coalition since the conflict's 2011 start.

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Jan 22, 2014 3:30 PM CST
LOL! face to face. Assad will have his people in the room & killing will take place shortly after. PS. Assad will not be stepping down nor will Syria make a deal that takes Assad out of power. There is nothing the west or the US can do other than threaten & or GO TO WAR. Which will involve Russia.
Jan 22, 2014 11:17 AM CST
Here we go, with a transitional government. Merry go round broke down.
Jan 22, 2014 9:53 AM CST
The U.S. stand should be... 1) Do pretty much whatever you wish, we are withdrawing all support for any/all parties. 2) Any/all future mass atrocities against children will bring some heavily punitive U.S special forces hellfire upon those who do so... rest assured, we are closely watching! 3) Good luck with your negotiations, you frickin' dickheads! The above stand can be stated in a matter of seconds... ... followed immediately by the U.S. exiting the talks.