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January 22, 2014

Negotiations to end Syrian civil war begin in Switzerland


Negotiators from dozens of countries are arriving in Geneva, Switzerland, for the beginning of peace talks that aim to end Syria’s brutal civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions from their homes.

“We are here to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people and the demands of the Syrian revolution,” said Badr Jamous, Secretary-General of the opposition’s Syrian National Council. “And we will not accept less than removing the criminal Bashar al-Assad and changing the regime and bringing the criminals to justice.”

However, Syrian refugees are less optimistic about the potential outcome of the talks.

“We have lost our faith in the international community. We don’t care about Geneva conference and whether it takes place or not,” said refugee Ibraheem Qaddah. “We have lost many of our relatives and friends and family members in the fighting, and we have lost Syria.”

Meanwhile, the question of Iran’s participation is raising tensions amongst the participating countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon invited Iran Sunday night, then disinvited the country yesterday. Iran has significant influence in the region, and is allied with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

Russia criticized the decision to not include Iran, saying, “Despite the largely ceremonial nature of the event, the absence of Iran in the list of 40 countries cannot but raise questions.”

As the talks get underway to resolve the three-year-long crisis, hopes are not high for a positive outcome in Switzerland.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Syria?  What is happening there?
  2. What role has the international community played in attempts to end Syria’s civil war? Which countries are involved and whose side are they on? For an infographic on the allies and enemies of the Syrian conflict please click here.
  3. Where is Iran?  What do you know about Iran’s political role in the Middle East?
Discussion questions
  1. What role is Iran playing at the conference, both symbolically and tactically?
  2. Why was the invitation to Iran rescinded and who rescinded it?
  3. What impact do you think this will have on the talks in Geneva? How effective can they be without Iran’s participation?
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