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West hails Syria opposition vote to join peace talks

Western leaders have hailed a decision by Syria's opposition to attend Wednesday's international peace conference alongside representatives of a regime they despise and remain determined to overthrow. After weeks of hesitation and threats to boycott the talks, the deeply divided National Coalition said it will go to Switzerland, with the sole aim of toppling President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran invited to Syria peace conference

Iran will attend this week's Syria peace conference after it pledged to play a "positive and constructive role" in efforts to end the three-year-old war, UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Sunday. Ban said he made a late invitation to Iran after intensive talks with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who agreed to attend. Iran's involvement means that all the key countries linked to the worsening war will now be at the opening of the peace conference in Montreux, Switzerland on Wednesday.

Iran invited to Syria peace conference

Iran will attend this week's Syria peace conference after it pledged to play a "positive and constructive role" in efforts to end the three-year-old war, UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Sunday. Ban said he made a late invitation to Iran after intensive talks with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who agreed to attend. Iran's involvement means that all the key countries linked to the worsening war will now be at the opening of the peace conference in Montreux, Switzerland on Wednesday.

Israel to stop distributing gas masks to public

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel decided on Sunday to end a decades-old policy of issuing gas masks to the public in an apparent sign of confidence in Syria's chemical weapons disarmament. Since being hit by Iraqi Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War, authorities have handed out masks, though Syria's chemical arsenal was Israel's primary concern in recent years.

Japan to unveil plan to hold dialogue with Syrian opposition

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will unveil for the first time at Wednesday's Syria peace talks in Switzerland that Japan plans to hold dialogue with the Syrian opposition in a bid to hasten an end to the civil war now in its third year, Japanese government sources said Sunday. Kishida's speech, to be delivered at the international peace conference, will be part of efforts by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to sell to the international community its "proactive pacifism," a banner under which Japan envisions a greater international role.

Japan to unveil plan to hold dialogue with Syrian opposition

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will unveil for the first time at Wednesday's Syria peace talks in Switzerland that Japan plans to hold dialogue with the Syrian opposition in a bid to hasten an end to the civil war now in its third year, Japanese government sources said Sunday. Kishida's speech, to be delivered at the international peace conference, will be part of efforts by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to sell to the international community its "proactive pacifism," a banner under which Japan envisions a greater international role.

Syria offers prisoner swap as opposition mulls peace talks

Syria said Friday it was ready to swap prisoners with rebels and to help improve humanitarian aid as the divided Syrian opposition debates whether to join international peace talks next week. Foreign Minister Walid Muallem offered the concessions at key preparatory talks in Moscow for the so-called Geneva II peace conference aimed at finding a way out of almost three years of brutal conflict. His announcement could mark another diplomatic success for Russia after the Kremlin managed to convince Damascus last year to renounce its chemical weapons to avert US air strikes.

Syria opposition meets to decide on peace talks

The divided Syrian opposition meets Friday to decide whether to join landmark talks next week aimed at ending almost three years of brutal conflict, facing intense pressure from Western and Arab allies to attend. On the eve of the National Coalition's meeting in Istanbul, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a powerful plea to the exiled group to decide in favour of the long-delayed talks opening in Switzerland on January 22.

Syrian opposition meets to decide on peace talks

The divided Syrian opposition will meet Friday in Istanbul to decide whether to join next week's landmark peace talks, as its Arab and Western allies ratchet up the pressure for it to attend. On the eve of the National Coalition's meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a powerful plea to the exiled group to decide in favour of the talks to be held in Switzerland on January 22. "The United States ... urges a positive vote," Kerry said in a surprise statement to reporters.

Baird headed to Swiss peace talks on Syria as opposition remains uncommitted

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will attend a major international meeting next week aimed at ending the Syrian civil war as a major push gets underway to convince rebels to attend the talks. Baird will travel to Montreux, Switzerland, for the opening of next Wednesday's peace conference, known as Geneva 2, the latest attempt to find a political solution to a bloody conflict that has killed an estimated 120,000 people. It wasn't clear Thursday whether all warring sides in the Syrian conflict would be at the table for the Geneva 2 talks.
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