(Photo: REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman)
International aid agency Oxfam has praised the upcoming Geneva peace conference in November that may bring Syrians closer to a much-needed resolution to the two-and-a-half-year civil war that has torn the nation apart.
"The Syrian people have cried out for peace for more than two years, and the world has finally answered their pleas," Oxfam said in a statement. "Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov now have a real opportunity to help bring an end to the death, displacement, and suffering taking place."
A number of leading nations are expected to be involved in the US-Russia peace talks, including Britain, France and China, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius revealed on Monday. The conference, being dubbed Geneva 2, will include all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, rebuffing claims by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Europe needs to stay out of the talks.
"Mr Bashar al-Assad can say what he wants," Fabius said. "In Geneva 2, we want to find an accord between the representatives of the regime and the moderate opposition, so that it is not the terrorists, the extremists, Al-Qaeda who reap the benefits."
Assad had argued that European nations "do not have all the necessary factors to succeed in such a role," according to Syria's official news agency, and said that they have "adopted the United States' policy in their relations with the countries."
The civil war in Syria between Assad's government and various rebel factions has claimed over 100,000 lives and forced over 2 million citizens to flee to neighboring countries as refugees. The US and its allies have accused the Syrian president of being responsible for a chemical weapons attack in August that killed over 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. Assad has blamed the rebels.
Assad has agreed, however, to hand over any chemical weapons to international forces to have them destroyed, in an effort to head off US military intervention in the region. Inspectors from the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have set out for Syria with the aim to help the government meet a Nov. 1 deadline to scrap its manufacturing process of such arms, the Associated Press shared, while the destruction of all chemical weapons is expected to be complete by mid-2014.
Oxfam insisted that if the November talks are to be successful, all parts of Syria's society must be represented, including non-military members who will be rebuilding and reconstructing the country.
"All countries must cease providing weapons to the Syrian government and opposition groups, as these arms fuel the conflict and are a serious impediment to peace," the aid agency continued.
"Parties to the conflict should use the momentum of this week's diplomatic marathon to agree to a ceasefire. A ceasefire would help to create the much-needed space for meaningful negotiations and help alleviate the increasingly desperate humanitarian situation."
Oxfam had previously accused leading nations of being as much as $2.7 billion short in aid money for Syrians affected by the ongoing civil war crisis
"Too many donor countries are not delivering the level of funds that is expected of them," said Colette Fearon, head of Oxfam Syria program. "While economic times are tough, we are facing the largest man-made humanitarian disaster in two decades and we have to seriously address it. The scale of this crisis is unprecedented and some countries must start to show their concerns to the crisis in Syria by putting their hands in their pockets."