|UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C, front) attends the Geneva II conference in Montreux, Swiss, on Jan. 22, 2014. A UN-backed international conference started Wednesday at the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux, aiming to end a three-year-long conflict in Syria. (Xinhua/Qian Yi)
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MONTREUX, Switzerland, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- A UN-backed international conference started Wednesday at the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux, aiming to end a three-year-long conflict in Syria.
The meeting, dubbed Geneva II and chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, gathered representatives from both the Syrian government and the opposition for the first time in three years.
"After nearly three painful years of conflict and suffering in Syria, today is a day of fragile but real hope," Ban said in his opening remarks.
"For the first time, the Syrian government and the Syria opposition, countries of the region, and the wider international community are convening to seek a political solution to the death, destruction and displacement that is the dire reality of life in Syria today," he said.
He told representatives that all members of the international community bore the duty to help the Syrian people "end conflict, determine their political system and future, and start rebuilding their country."
"The Geneva Communique sets out a number of key steps for a Syrian-led transition, starting with the establishment of 'a transitional governing body with full executive powers, formed by mutual consent'- including over the military forces and security and intelligence services," Ban noted.
"I call on the Syrian delegations to engage seriously and constructively. Great challenges lie ahead but they are not insurmountable," he said.
The UN chief also urged all participants to impress upon both sides the necessity and inevitability of a political solution.
"I count on you to encourage the Syrian sides and their delegations to reach a comprehensive settlement based on the Geneva Communique," he added.
The conference also saw foreign ministers and officials from nearly 40 other countries, including those from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - along with delegates from regional powers, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Qatar among others.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton will also be present at the meeting.
Video>>>Syrian gov't, opposition delegations arrive in Switzerland
China stresses political solution to Syria crisis
MONTREUX, Switzerland, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday reiterated China's stance for a political settlement of the Syrian issue, calling for continued political efforts to keep the negotiations going.
Wang made the remarks while discussing with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Tuesday night about the peace talks on Syria, known as the Geneva II conference. Full story
U.S., Russian leaders discuss Syria, Iran, Sochi Olympics
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday discussed the upcoming peace talks on Syria, and agreed to continue cooperation on Iran and Sochi Olympics.
In their phone conversation, the two leaders discussed the situation in Syria, including preparations for the so-called Geneva II conference and the ongoing efforts to remove and destroy Syria's chemical weapons, the White House said in a readout of the talks. Full story
News Analysis: Geneva II could be first step to solve Syrian crisis
DAMASCUS, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Both delegations of the Syrian government and opposition arrived in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday evening to embark on a dialogue for the first time since the eruption of the conflict in Syria nearly three years ago.
The so-called Geneva II conference, which will open on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland, marks the first step on the long road of political negotiations between the warring sides in the Syrian conflict, analysts said. Full story