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UN chief sees small opportunity for Syria peace

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 1 Mar 2013 17:21 GMT
Author: Reuters
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GENEVA, March 1 (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday there was a very small window of opportunity for the Syrian government and opposition to hold talks on ending the civil war.

Syria's government has shown increased willingness to hold talks with the opposition to end the two-year conflict that has killed 70,000 people.

At a news conference in Geneva, Ban said he would meet his Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Switzerland on Saturday for private talks.

"This is a very small window of opportunity which we strongly support and encourage them to use that. The opportunity may soon close," Ban said.

The situation in Syria was deteriorating and it was crucial to stop the violence and start a political dialogue, he said.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday the government would even speak to armed rebels. On Thursday, it extended passport terms for its nationals abroad, meeting a condition set by the opposition for talks.

Moaz al-Khatib, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said he would speak to President Bashar al-Assad's representatives if expired passports were extended for two years. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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