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Syrian govt: Opposition are traitors

22 January 2014, 15:05

Montreux - Syria's foreign minister has accused his country's opposition of being traitors and says neighbouring countries set Syria ablaze by sending arms and fighters to the civil war.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem spoke just after US Secretary of State John Kerry, who accused Syria's government of turning a peaceful protest movement into an international catastrophe.

Kerry said President Bashar Assad would have no place in the transitional government that is the stated goal of the peace talks.

Syrians bear the primary responsibility for ending the civil war in their country, the UN secretary general said Wednesday, opening peace talks that he acknowledged face "formidable" challenges.

Ban Ki-moon called on the Syrian government and the Western-backed opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith as they meet face-to-face for the first time.

"We know that it has been an extremely difficult path to reach this point. We have lost valuable time and many, many lives. Let me not mince words, the challenges before you and before all of us are formidable. But your presence here raises hope," he said in his opening remarks.

The world's most powerful diplomats - including US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov - gathered in Montreux, Switzerland, for the talks, which had been in doubt just two days ago.

But the Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group representing the opposition, is in disarray, with little influence on rebel brigades fighting in Syria. And Iran, which is one of President Bashar Assad's major backers, was invited and then disinvited at the last minute.

- AP


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