MUNICH, Germany, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- The 50th Munich Security Conference is scheduled to start Friday afternoon in the southern German city of Munich and run through Sunday.
Since its inception in 1963, the annual conference has been an important forum for top officials including heads of state or government, ministers, parliamentarians, senior military officers, as well as academics and media representatives to discuss major security issues facing the world, with a special focus on transatlantic partnership
This year, the conference will focus on transatlantic relations under the shadow of the U.S. surveillance scandal exposed by Edward Snowden, the Syria crisis, Iran's nuclear program, conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East peace process, regional stability in Asia, as well as some unconventional security issues such as cyberspace security and energy revolution.
Nearly 500 participants, including some 20 heads of state, government or international organization, and more than 50 foreign ministers and defense ministers, are expected to attend the conference.
Among them are UN chief Ban Ki-moon, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, U.S. State and Defense Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and European Council President Herman van Rompuy.
A preliminary participant list shows that a representative of the Syrian opposition, whose identity remains unknown, may attend a panel discussion on Friday night.
China will send Fu Ying, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, to attend the panel discussion named "Europe, America and Asia" on Saturday.
Since its foundation in the fall of 1963 by German publisher Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, the conference has been held in Munich annually except for in the years of 1991 and 1997.
This year, the conference will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Some participants of the first conference, then called International Wehrkunde-Begegnung (International Defense Conference), are invited to join young decisionmakers to discuss challenges of today and the future. Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger are among the speakers.