News Column

Syria Talks Open on a Harsh Note

January 23, 2014

Michael R. Gordon and Anne Barnard, The New York Times

john kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (file photo)

MONTREUX, Switzerland -- Friction and acrimony broke out almost immediately Wednesday with the start of a long-delayed peace conference on Syria, punctuated by a testy exchange between the Syrian foreign minister and the leader of the United Nations, casting doubt on the prospects for easing hostilities or even opening up emergency aid corridors to help besieged civilians.

The conference of delegates representing 30 countries in the lakeside Swiss city of Montreux, already troubled by last-minute diplomatic stumbles, was described by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as a test for the international community.

But the meeting barely had begun when the atmosphere grew even more charged over divisions between the United States and Russia and especially among the Syrians themselves.

Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, led his country's delegation and was openly defiant, calling Syrian insurgents evil and ignoring appeals by Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, to avoid invective or even yield the floor as a bell rang signaling that he had exceeded the allotted time for his remarks.

"You live in New York, I live in Syria," al-Moallem snapped after Ban asked that he conclude his speech, which lasted more than 30 minutes.

After al-Moallem finished, Ban lamented that his injunction that participants take a constructive approach to the crisis "had been broken."

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and other top officials expressed doubt that the Syria peace conference would produce results.

-- New York Times via Virginian - Pilot

(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

Original headline: Syria peace talks open with testy exchanges

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Source: (c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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