Japan ready to host Syria confidence-building talks: diplomat

MONTREUX, Switzerland (AFP) - Japan is ready to host confidence-building talks between members of Syria's rival camps if peace efforts launched this week bear fruit, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday.

"We are ready to invite the people from both sides," Mr Koichi Mizushima told reporters on the sidelines of a Syria peace conference in the Swiss city of Montreux.

"We would not invite Syrian officials, but promising young leaders from both sides, so that they can understand each other, and maybe they can resolve some misunderstanding," said Mr Mizushima, deputy director of the Japanese foreign ministry's public diplomacy division.

"I don't think we're at this time yet. But we have experience on this kind of thing," he said.

Japan has already hosted several discreet rounds of talks between Israelis and Palestinians seen as likely to be their nations' leaders over the coming decade, he noted.

"We bring them together to help them build confidence in each other," Mr Mizushima explained.

Wholeheartedly backing calls for peaceful political change in Syria, Japan is nonetheless in a "kind of neutral position" as a potential host for talks, Mr Mizushima said.

"Maybe at this time it's not possible, but we will try, after the negotiations, after an agreement is reached. But if circumstances allow, it could be during the negotiations, if both sides are ready to come and build confidence," he added.

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