• 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
Updated: 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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed the invitation had been withdrawn "under pressure", saying he had earlier made it clear to Ban that Tehran "does not accept any preconditions" to the talks.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
Special permits for foreign strippers to end
Photo: AFP

Special permits for foreign strippers to end

Bern says it plans to stop issuing special work permits for foreign strippers hailing from countries such as Russia, the Dominican Republic and Thailand. READ  

Federer and Nadal win with ease in Basel
Federer acknowledges hometown spectators after win. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Federer and Nadal win with ease in Basel

Top seeds Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal raced through their Swiss Indoors assignments on Wednesday, spending under an hour each on court and dropping just five games between them. READ  

Swiss seek Unesco listing for yodelling
Photo: Swiss Images.ch/AFP

Swiss seek Unesco listing for yodelling

Switzerland announced on Wednesday that it would like the Alpine country's deep-seated traditions such as yodelling and precision watchmaking to be inscribed on a United Nations global heritage list. READ  

ABB's orders rise but third-quarter profits dip
Photo: ABB

ABB's orders rise but third-quarter profits dip

Swiss engineering group ABB on Wednesday reported a surge in orders from the energy industry in the third quarter, but warned of headwinds from the slowing global economy. READ  

Red faces at Migros over Hitler coffee cream pots
Photo: AFP

Red faces at Migros over Hitler coffee cream pots

Swiss retailer Migros apologized on Wednesday for what it said was a string of errors which put coffee cream with the faces of Hitler and Mussolini in cafes in the Alpine country. READ  

Cold and snow signal end to Indian summer
Webcam view of La Tzoumaz in the 4 Vallées resort area in the canton of Valais on Wednesday. Photo: Televerbier.ch

Cold and snow signal end to Indian summer

After a summery weekend with temperatures as high as 24 degrees, parts of Switzerland experienced an early taste of winter on Wednesday with snow falling at levels as low as 600 metres in some areas. READ  

Switzerland regarded as 'best place for expats'
Photo: Zurich Tourism

Switzerland regarded as 'best place for expats'

Switzerland is the world's favourite destination among expats, followed by Singapore and China, a poll on quality of life for bank HSBC found. READ  

Swiss Guard launches popes' recipe book
Photo: AFP

Swiss Guard launches popes' recipe book

From an Argentinian dessert that translates as "milk candy" to Polish ravioli, a member of Vatican's famed Swiss Guard on Tuesday unveiled a range of recipes of dishes favoured by popes. READ  

Zermatt ranks among top places to visit in 2015
Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Zermatt ranks among top places to visit in 2015

Swiss mountain resort Zermatt is listed among the world's top ten towns and cities to visit in 2015 by Lonely Planet, the travel guide. READ  

Swiss pedestrian safety takes turn for worse
Drivers largely responsible for upturn in pedestrian accidents: report. Photo: BFU

Swiss pedestrian safety takes turn for worse

Although Swiss streets are regarded as among the safest in the world, a pedestrian dies on average every week from motor vehicle accidents, while two are seriously injured every day, the Swiss accident prevention bureau (BFU) says. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
Education
ETH Zurich remains top university in Europe: QS world rankings
National
Switzerland's housing vacancy rate jumps: new federal figures
National
Swiss football club fires team masseuse over explicit sex video
National
Geneva police arrest easyJet passenger over hand luggage row
Business & Money
Latest forecasts for Swiss economic growth turn less bullish
Sport
Formula One legend Schumacher to continue treatment at Swiss home
National
Former federal planning official calls for nine Swiss cantons
Features
The Local gets the lowdown on mushroom picking in Switzerland
National
Virgin boss Richard Branson's son rescued from peak of Matterhorn
National
Swiss President Didier Burkhalter's commute turns Twitter sensation
Features
High-tech cameras give dizzy view of Eiger's north face (VIDEO)
Politics
Baden municipal council strips 'nude selfies mayor' of duties
Business & Money
Switzerland stays atop competitiveness table for sixth year
National
Federal parliament secretary agrees to step down over nude selfies
National
Swiss residents pick Swedes as ideal European soul mates: survey
National
Zurich officials call project to move prostitutes to 'sex boxes' a success
National
Swiss gays recognized as parents of child born to surrogate mother
Health
Increase in mountain bike accidents keeps Swiss hospitals busy
National
Swiss policeman belatedly honoured for saving Jews from Holocaust
National
'Suicide tourists' to Switzerland double in three years: study
National
Swiss Post SMS scheme gets stamp of approval after pilot project
Business & Money
American tax evasion crackdown hits Swiss private banks' bottom line
Politics
Woman accuses Swiss politician in nude selfies scandal of lying
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

2,263
jobs available