• Switzerland edition
 
Montreux talks on Syria to proceed without Iran
UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrives in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of talks in Montreux. Photo: Salvatore Di Nolfi/AFP

Montreux talks on Syria to proceed without Iran

Published: 21 Jan 2014 14:15 GMT+01:00

Preparations were under way in the Swiss city of Montreux for Wednesday's start of the so-called Geneva II talks, after the abrupt United Nations reversal averted a Syrian opposition boycott.
   
UN leader Ban Ki-moon late Monday withdrew his surprise invitation to Iran, a major backer of President Bashar al-Assad, less than 24 hours after he announced it.
   
Iran was quick to respond, with Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi telling state television there was little chance of peace without Tehran's involvement.
   
"It is clear that a comprehensive solution to the Syria issue will not be found when all influential parties are not involved in the process," Araqchi said.
   
"Everyone knows that without Iran the chances of a real solution to Syria are not that great."
   
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed the invitation had been withdrawn "under pressure", saying he had earlier made it clear to Ban that Tehran "does not accept any preconditions" to the talks.
   
"Iran was not too keen on attending in the first place," Zarif added in comments reported by the ISNA news agency.
   
The United States, which is organising the talks along with Russia and the UN, had said Iran could not attend unless it agreed to the principle of creating a transitional government set out in June 2012 peace talks in Geneva.
   
Moscow, another key Assad ally, had pushed for Tehran to take part and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday it had been an error to withdraw the invitation.
   
"Of course this is a mistake," Lavrov told reporters.
   
But he also downplayed the move, saying "no disaster has happened" and describing the peace talks as "largely ceremonial" and a "one-day event".
   
This week's talks will be the most intensive diplomatic effort yet to resolve Syria's civil war, which after nearly three years has left more than 100,000 dead and millions forced from their homes.
   
Months of diplomatic wrangling were needed to convince all sides to take part, with the main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, only agreeing at the last minute.
   
US Secretary of State John Kerry departed Washington before dawn Tuesday to head to Switzerland, with officials warning the talks were just the start of a long and grinding process.
   
"I don't think anyone who's dealt with Syrian officials has any false expectations of rapid progress," a senior State Department official said.

 Need 'for patience and for persistence'

"Everybody has to understand that this is the beginning of a process. It's not going to be fast. It's very bitter fighting on the ground.

"And so there's going to be an absolute requirement for patience and for persistence."
   
Deep divisions within the opposition were exposed ahead of the talks and questions have been raised about whether its delegation will be truly representative of Assad's opponents.
   
The biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Council, said on Monday that it was quitting the coalition because taking part in the talks would renege on its "commitments" not to enter negotiations until Assad left power.
   
In an AFP interview published on Monday, Assad bluntly ruled out a power-sharing deal.

He insisted the peace conference should focus on what he called his "war against terrorism".
   
Assad dismissed the opposition as having been created by foreign backers and said nothing could stop him from seeking a new term as president in an election he wants to hold in June.
   
After the launch of the conference in Montreux, which will also bring together some 40 countries and regional bodies, the Syrian government and opposition are to start face-to-face talks in Geneva on Friday.
   
In Montreux, police cordons had been set up outside the conference venue on Lake Geneva and security was tight, with helicopters flying overhead.
   
Lavrov and Kerry were to meet in Montreux late Tuesday for pre-conference talks.
   
Security officials said the arrangements had been complicated by demands from participants.
   
"There are some delegations that want to be physically separated -- who cannot be in the same hotel, who do not want to be in the same hotel," local police commissioner Jean Christophe Sauterel told AFP.
   
Adding to the urgency of the talks, three former international prosecutors have accused the Assad government of large-scale killing and torture.
   
Their report — revealed Monday by the Guardian newspaper and CNN television and based on the evidence of a military police defector — said about 55,000 digital images of 11,000 dead detainees had been handed over.
   
One of the report's authors — Desmond de Silva, the former chief prosecutor of the special court for Sierra Leone — told the Guardian that the evidence showed that Assad's forces had carried out "industrial-scale killing".

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Napoleon's locks to be put in Geneva watches
Detail of portrait of Napoleon by painter Jacques-Louis David (1812).

Napoleon's locks to be put in Geneva watches

Napoleon's admirers will be able to carry his DNA on their wrists after a Swiss company announced Tuesday its plans to sell watches containing a fragment of the emperor's hair. READ  

HSBC Swiss unit fined for unregistered US biz
Photo: AFP/File

HSBC Swiss unit fined for unregistered US biz

A Swiss unit of British bank HSBC has agreed to pay $12.5 million for flouting US rules requiring registration of cross-border brokerage services, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced on Tuesday. READ  

Cuban Ebola patient in Geneva 'improving'
Jérôme Pugin (left), chief medical officer of the intensive care unit at the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) next to HUG General Director Bertrand Levrat. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Cuban Ebola patient in Geneva 'improving'

A Cuban doctor infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone is improving after treatment with experimental drugs, the Geneva hospital where he is being treated said on Tuesday. READ  

Activists call for ban on eating cats and dogs
Some Swiss dogs are spared the threat of becoming dinner. Photo: AFP

Activists call for ban on eating cats and dogs

Hundreds of thousands of Swiss eat cats and dogs, according to an animal rights group that has demanded the government make it illegal for man to bite dog. READ  

Opinion
Why the Swiss central bank needs more gold
Photo: AFP/File

Why the Swiss central bank needs more gold

Eric Schreiber, an independent asset manager based near Morges in the canton of Vaud, argues why Swiss voters should say "yes" to a referendum initiative that calls on the Swiss National Bank to hold more gold. READ  

Federer to face Hewitt in new tennis format
Federer and Hewitt together at a tournament in Shanghai in 2012. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP

Federer to face Hewitt in new tennis format

Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt will clash in a new shortened, faster form of the game ahead of the Australian Open that organizers on Tuesday said they hope will revolutionize tennis. READ  

National ban sought for late-night booze shops
Photo: AFP/File

National ban sought for late-night booze shops

Politicians in Bern want to shut down takeaway and convenience shops across the country that sell booze late at night. READ  

'Sex boxes' eyed to control Basel prostitutes
Photo: City of Zurich

'Sex boxes' eyed to control Basel prostitutes

Basel could be ready to follow in the footsteps of Zurich by establishing “sex boxes”, a drive-in zone for clients to meet prostitutes. READ  

Federer legend grows with Davis Cup win
Federer poses for a selfie with supporters in Lausanne. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Federer legend grows with Davis Cup win

It's taken him 16 years as a pro, but Roger Federer finally has won all there is to win in tennis — well almost. READ  

Davis Cup tennis finals
Fans give Davis Cup heroes rousing reception
Swiss Davis Cup team captain Severin Luethi hoists the Davis Cup as confetti rains down during Lausanne ceremony. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Fans give Davis Cup heroes rousing reception

Switzerland’s tennis team received a heroes' welcome in Lausanne on Monday upon their return from Lille, France after winning the country’s first Davis Cup title. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Switzerland's Christmas market season gets into full swing
Business & Money
University of Zurich study finds 'banker's oath' could spur honesty
Sponsored Article
Exclusive offer: Try out home exchange
National
Swiss National Bank chief calls proposal to boost gold reserves 'fatal'
National
Mudslides kill four people in Ticino and neighbouring Italy
Culture
British X Factor star seeks internet support for Swiss Eurovision place
National
Court overturns ban by backing right for schoolgirl to wear scarf
National
Swiss ranking for English skills worsens among non-Anglo countries
Culture
Swiss model and French TV star Nabilla held for 'attempted murder'
Travel
Switzerland's Zermatt voted best ski resort in the Alps by skiers
Sport
VIDEO: FC Zurich claims crime after 'vicious' tackle hospitalizes player
Tech
Federal government announces new '.swiss' internet domain name
National
Zany emergency: Basel firefighters rescue ass stuck in manhole
Business & Money
American jury clears former UBS top executive of tax fraud
International
Switzerland ranks second to Norway in global 'prosperity' index
National
Financial regulator bans former Coop Bank CEO for three years
International
Switzerland slips in World Economic Forum's gender equality rankings
National
Job candidates unhappy with hiring process in Switzerland
National
Glacier 3000 opens new foot bridge spanning two mountains in Vaud
National
Swiss seek special Unesco heritage listing for yodelling and watchmaking
International
Switzerland regarded as best place in world for expats: global survey
National
Red faces at Migros over Hitler and Mussolini coffee cream pots
National
Quarter of workers in Switzerland 'stressed out': new survey
Travel
Lonely Planet ranks Zermatt among top places to visit in 2015
National
Majority of Swiss back proposed new immigration curbs: poll
Features
Eritrean asylum seekers find refuge in Swiss monastery town
National
Expat American professor disputes 'unjust' Swiss citizenship rejection
National
Sputtering eurozone drags down Swiss economic growth forecast
Features
Swiss-based English expat writer lauds immigrant 'brains and brawn'
International
Our survey: Switzerland third priciest for food and drink from back home
National
Zurich market gardener sets world 'record' for heaviest pumpkin
National
Report: Switzerland's residents richer than before economic crash
Features
Geneva lab sleuths use high tech to help art world uncover fakes
National
Father of Scot missing since early September fears Swiss trauma
National
Foreign women give birth to rising share of newborns: latest figures
National
'Giant's penis' bloom in Basel uni botanical garden bigger than ever
National
Switzerland's voters reject public health insurance proposal
National
Zooming foreign immigration continues to boost Swiss population
National
Scientific study rings alarm over wellbeing of Swiss cows with bells
National
Geneva MP seeks ban on charging for tap water in restaurants
Business & Money
Switzerland's residents top world financial wealth list: Allianz report
National
Saint Maurice abbey in Valais celebrates 1,500 years of history
National
Streaming movie video service Netflix arrives in Switzerland
National
Professional Chilean base jumper dives to death in Swiss Alps
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,995
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply