A delegation from the Holy See has been invited to take part in the Geneva II Peace Conference on Syria which began today in Montreux, Switzerland.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations, and Msgr. Alberto Ortega Martin, an official from the Secretariat of State, are attending the talks.
Speaking to Vatican Radio Jan. 22, Archbishop Tomasi said the absolute priority of the talks is to respond to the demand of the Syrian population to bring an end to the violence, death and destruction.
About 130,000 people have died and entire villages have been destroyed, he noted.
Faced with this reality, the international community is seeking to respond “with a sense of solidarity” to find “an acceptable compromise” to begin effective negotiations, he said.
“A breathing space is opening, even though we know the difficulties there will be in the coming days,” the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to Damascus, Archbishop Mario Zenari, told Vatican Radio.
“Just the fact they are meeting and beginning to talk is something,” he said, adding: “It is to time to end this avalanche of death and destruction and restore humanitarian law.
Although the conference is now underway, it won’t be until Friday that face-to-face talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, the first since the conflict began three years ago, will begin.
After a summit on Syria at the Vatican last week, the Holy See called for an immediate truce and reconciliation and rebuilding efforts. It also voiced hope the recent agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme could have a positive effect on the talks.
Officials have expressed little hope of a breakthrough, AFP reported, but have said bringing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the opposition to the same table will be a sign of progress.