Wednesday marked the beginning of a long-delayed peace conference on Syria, but things are off to a rough start.
The peace conference, set in the lakeside Swiss city of Montreux, marks the first time the Syrian regime has sat down at the negotiating table with the opposition since the conflict began in March 2011. But on the first day of the conference things got a little testy between Syria’s government and the main political opposition, casting some doubt on the whether or not the peace talks will be able to ease the ongoing violence or even open up emergency aid corridors to help displaced civilians.
The main source of conflict was what to do with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad has already stated that he will not step down, but the opposition and US said the Syrian dictator had no legitimacy and must resign from power.
US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that Assad “will not be part of that transitional government”.
“There is no way, not possible in the imagination, that the man who has lead the brutal response to his own people could regain legitimacy to govern,” Kerry added.
Apparently slaughtering your own citizens and showering them with chemical weapons isn’t as popular with the international crowd as it used to be.
The Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, who led his country’s delegation, struck back at Kerry saying only the Syrian people could decide their president.
“No-one in the world has the right to confer or withdraw the legitimacy of a president, a constitution or a law, except for the Syrians themselves,” he told Kerry, adding that the Syrian insurgents were evil traitors who had “Syrian blood on their hands” and accusing the U.S. of supporting terrorist groups in the opposition.
After the UN’s Ban Ki-moon warned him his speech was running far over the allotted 10-minute slot, Moallem snapped back at him too.
“You live in New York. I live in Syria,” Moallem told the UN secretary general. “I have the right to give the Syrian version here. After three years of suffering, this is my right.”
Huh. Well, it’s only the first day. And look at the bright side – at least Iran didn’t show up.
Via: The New York Times