UN chief says Syrians responsible for ending war

Associated Press
From left: UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov join hands after their international conference on ending the crisis in Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Syria's main political opposition group in exile agreed on Saturday to attend internationally sponsored peace talks, and said for the first time three rebel fighting forces also wanted to take part. (AP Photo/Gary Cameron, Pool)

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MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — Syrians bear the primary responsibility for ending the civil war in their country, the U.N. secretary-general said Wednesday, opening peace talks that he acknowledged face "formidable" challenges.

Ban Ki-moon called on the Syrian government and the Western-backed opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith as they meet face-to-face for the first time.

"We know that it has been an extremely difficult path to reach this point. We have lost valuable time and many, many lives. Let me not mince words, the challenges before you and before all of us are formidable. But your presence here raises hope," he said in his opening remarks.

The world's most powerful diplomats — including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart — gathered in Montreux, Switzerland, for the talks, which had been in doubt just two days ago.

But the Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group representing the opposition, is in disarray, with little influence on rebel brigades fighting in Syria. And Iran, which is one of President Bashar Assad's major backers, was invited and then disinvited at the last minute.

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