UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Monday said that preparations for the Geneva II conference are "on track," calling on all involved in Syria conflict to signal intention to "open the way for a new future."
"Negotiations will be difficult, but without them, there is only bloodshed and despair on the horizon," Ban told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York.
"We are on track to convene the conference on 22 January next year," he said. "I count on those with influence to encourage the Syrian parties to come to the conference with the serious intention to end the war and agree on a peaceful transition."
The conference will be held in Switzerland in two parts, with the opening session in Montreux on Jan. 22, 2014, and then moving on Jan. 24 to the UN office in Geneva. It will be the first time the Syrian government and the opposition meet at a negotiating table since the conflict started in March 2011.
The goal of the conference will be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communique, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on June 30, 2012, which called for the creation of a transitional government that would lead to holding elections.
According to UN, invitees to the conference include the UN, the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States), the League of Arab States, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and 26 other countries.
Turning to the question of Iran's participation, the UN chief said that Iran can play a very important role and should be committed to the outcome of the Geneva II Conference.
"As I have said before, Iran needs to contribute to peace in Syria along with others in the region," said Ban, who hoped that the issue will be addressed as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Ban noted the UN and its partners are doing " everything we can" to help ease the suffering. Over 100,000 people have been killed and 8 million driven from their homes, 2 million of them are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, since the conflict first erupted.
"I call on the sides to free detainees, end sieges and allow greater humanitarian access. I appeal to them to reduce the horrific violence," he said. "All involved in this conflict should signal their intention to open the way for a new future."