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Bonino tells Syria that terror is no excuse for abuses

Pope wants 'no effort spared' to end conflict

22 January, 19:05
Bonino tells Syria that terror is no excuse for abuses (By Shelly Kittleson) (ANSA) - Montreux, January 22 - Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino underscored Wednesday on the first day of the Geneva 2 international peace conference on Syria that fighting terrorism should not be used as a justification to violate human rights.

The conference includes 45 delegations from around the world, who will be attempting to find a solution to the impasse in the Syrian conflict that continues to inflict massive loss of life and displacement of the country's inhabitants both within and outside of its borders. The conference was preceded by a number of diplomatic hitches and diffidence between representatives of Damascus and members of the fragmented Syrian opposition. It then got off to a rocky start with the first speeches marking a gulf between the parties involved. In her speech, Bonino said that "everyone here shares a concern that the current situation will degenerate into radicalism and terrorism. But I wish to say clearly that fighting terrorism cannot be used as a justification to violate human rights and human dignity".

She also stressed that all parties to the conflict must be involved, including those not attending the talks.

The minister did not explicitly cite Iran, which was initially invited but had its invite withdrawn at the last minute.

She underscored, however, that "the only way to solve this situation is to apply the 2012 UN Geneva Communique," drawn up in the first international talks on the conflict, a declaration that Tehran refused to recognise and which was the basis for its not being allowed to attend the talks underway.

Bonino went on to call for "an immediate cease-fire" to allow humanitarian aid access to Syria" as a "starting point" for negotiations.

"If the conflict continues, it will shame the entire world," she said of the civil war that has left over 100,000 dead and millions displaced. Pope Francis also launched an appeal Wednesday, calling on all parties involved to "spare no effort in urgently ending violence and a conflict which has already caused too much suffering".

At the end of a general audience in Saint Peter's square in front of over 13,000 people, the pontiff expressed a wish for "the dear Syrian nation" to find a "decisive path to reconciliation, understanding and reconstruction with the participation of all citizens".

The Holy See is also taking part in the conference in Montreux, with a delegation including Msgr. Silvano Tomasi, its UN representative in Geneva, and Secretariat of State official Msgr. Alberto Ortega Martin.

A 10-minute melee broke out during the day at the peace conference media center after Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoghbi made an impromptu appearance with his bodyguards but refused to answer questions from an opposition journalist.

Direct talks between the Syrian parties are scheduled to begin in Geneva on Friday.