Russia, Iran criticize Tehran snub for Syria talks
Ibraheem Qaddah, 33, a former Free Syian Army fighter from Daraa, speaks with with The Associated Press at Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. For some of the more than 2 million Syrian refugees scattered around the region, there is little hope that the peace conference in Geneva can deliver a solution to the conflict, and scant interest in a settlement with Assad’s government. “We lost our faith in the international community. We don’t care about the Geneva conference and whether it takes place or not,” said Qaddah, whose arm was amputated after an injury by the Syrian government forces' shelling and was smuggled with his family to Jordan two months ago. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
GENEVA (AP) — Russia and Iran on Tuesday criticized the U.N. chief's decision to withdraw Tehran's invitation to join this week's peace conference on Syria, as diplomats said a new report on Syrian regime atrocities underscored the urgent need to try to end the country's brutal civil war.
The last-minute U.N. invitation for Iran to participate in the so-called Geneva conference threw the entire meeting into doubt, forcing U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to rescind his offer late Monday under intense U.S. pressure after Syria's main Western-backed opposition group threatened to boycott.
After Ban withdrew the invitation, the opposition Syrian National Coalition confirmed that it would attend the talks, stressing the goal should be to establish a transitional government with full executive powers "in which killers and criminals do not participate."
That cleared the way for the conference to open Wednesday as planned in the Swiss resort city of Montreux, with high-ranking delegations from the United States, Russia and close to 40 other countries attending. Face-to-face negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents — the first of the uprising — are to start Friday in Geneva.
Expectations for a breakthrough at the conference are low. The front lines of the war have been largely locked in place since March, and despite suffering enormous losses, neither the government nor the opposition appears desperate enough for a deal to budge from its entrenched position.
It's also unclear how the opposition coalition, a weak and fractured umbrella group with almost no sway over the most powerful rebel groups inside Syria, could enforce any agreement reached in Geneva.
The determination to hold the talks anyway is a reflection of the urgency felt by the international community to find a political resolution to end the civil war that activists say has killed more than 130,000 people and unleashed a humanitarian crisis.
For some of the more than 2 million Syrian refugees scattered around the region, there is little hope that the peace conference can deliver a solution to the conflict, and scant interest in a settlement with President Bashar Assad's government.
"We lost our faith in the international community. We don't care about the Geneva conference and whether it takes place or not," said Ibraheem Qaddah, a former rebel fighter now holed up in Jordan's sprawling Zaatari refugee camp.