Syria peace conference on Jan 22: United Nations

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Syrian government and opposition negotiators will meet for the first time since start of the country's 32 month-old war in Geneva from January 22, the United Nations (UN) announced on Monday.

UN leader Ban Ki Moon called the landmark conference "a mission of hope" to end the civil war.

But he stressed to both sides that the aiming of the meeting will be to carry out a declaration adopted by the major powers in June 2010 calling for a transitional government.

"The secretary general expects that the Syrian representatives will come to Geneva with a clear understanding that this is the objective, and with a serious intention to end a war that has already left well over 100,000 dead, driven almost nine million from their homes, left countless missing and detained, sent tremors through the region and forced unacceptable burdens on Syria's neighbors," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

"The conflict in Syria has raged for too long. It would be unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction it has caused," Mr Ban said through his spokesman.

Mr Ban praised the efforts of Russia, the United States and UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in pressing for the conference, which has been delayed several times.

Divisions in the Syrian opposition, doubts about the government's commitment to the conference and deciding whether key countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia should take part have all clouded efforts to bring the two sides together.

The conference will be a follow-up to a meeting held in Geneva in June 2012 when the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - the permanent UN Security Council members - and other key states agreed a call for a transitional government.

"We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope. The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria," said Mr Ban.

"Its goal is the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué of June 30, 2012, including the establishment, based on mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities," he added.

The Security Council has backed the declaration in a resolution, making it legally binding.

Mr Ban said he "will expect all regional and international partners to demonstrate their meaningful support for constructive negotiations.

"All must show vision and leadership. All can begin working now to take steps to help the Geneva conference succeed, including toward the cessation of violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees and return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced to their homes," Mr Ban said.

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