Leaders clash at Syria peace summit: what did they say?
Syrian government and opposition point fingers, as allies told they have 'blood on their hands'
THE Syria peace conference, dubbed Geneva II, has exposed deep rifts over the future of the country and its president Bashar al-Assad. As the conference got under way in Switzerland today, there were "some extraordinarily ill-tempered scenes", reports the BBC, with neither the Syrian regime nor the opposition indicating that any compromise was in sight.
Other countries were drawn into the row, offering little hope for a solution to the conflict that has left more than 100,000 dead and millions displaced. Here is what the key players said in their speeches:
UN secretary general
In his opening speech, Ban Ki-moon called for immediate access for humanitarian aid convoys to areas of Syria under siege. "After nearly three painful years of conflict and suffering in Syria, today is a day of fragile but real hope," he said. "Great challenges lie ahead but they are not insurmountable."
Syria's foreign minister
Despite Ban Ki-moon's speech, Western officials said they were taken aback by the combative tone adopted by Walid al-Moualem. He accused some nations present at the summit of having "Syrian blood on their hands", claiming they were trying to destabilise the country. Moualem insisted Assad would not bow to outside demands and painted a graphic picture of "terrorist" rebel atrocities. He even defied Ban Ki-moon's plea to shorten his speech after running over the allotted time, telling him: "You live in New York. I live in Syria. I have the right to give the Syrian version here. After three years of suffering, this is my right."
US secretary of state
John Kerry said there was "no way possible" Assad could remain in power. "We see only one option: negotiating a transition government born by mutual consent," he said. "There is no way, no way possible, that a man who has led a brutal response to his own people can regain legitimacy to govern."
National Coalition chief
Ahmad Jarba, leader of Syria's main opposition group, displayed images that allegedly showed "systematic" torture and execution carried out by the Syrian regime. He called on the government to immediately sign the Geneva document and transfer power to a transitional authority. Jarba insisted that it had not been the opposition's choice to take up arms but that it "was the choice imposed by the Syrian regime". He added that "for the Syrians, time is now blood".
Russian foreign minister
Sergei Lavrov criticised the UN's decision to exclude Iran from the summit, a contentious move that overshadowed the start of the conference. "We have consistently warned of schism in the Islamic world, but there are those who support this schism, and the dis-invitation of Iran does not bode well," he said. Lavrov, whose government supports the Assad regime, added that there was "a historic responsibility on the shoulders of all participants".
UK foreign secretary
William Hague urged both sides in the Syrian civil war to "put an end to the devastation" by staying at the negotiating table. "Now is the time to choose to save a generation of Syrian children from violence and trauma, to end the siege being laid to ancient towns and cities, to begin to repair the rich fabric of Syrian society and to spare millions of refugees the prospect of years of exile, homelessness and deprivation," he said.