Syrian and international delegates have arrived in
Switzerland for peace talks that few believe can succeed as
the three-year-old civil war and geopolitical acrimony it has
brought show no sign of abating.
An unexpected last-minute UN invitation for Iran to a peace
conference on Syria has thrown the talks into doubt, with
Washington demanding Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdraw
his offer and the Syrian opposition threatening to pull out.
The United Nations has appealed for a record $US6.5 billion
for Syria and its neighbours to help 16 million people, many
of them hungry or homeless victims of a conflict that has
lasted 33 months with no end in sight.
Thirty-six people, nearly half of them children, were killed
when Syrian army helicopters dropped improvised "barrel
bombs" on the disputed northern city of Aleppo, the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights says.
Syria has destroyed or rendered inoperable all of its
declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities,
meeting a major deadline in an ambitious disarmament
programme, the international chemical weapons watchdog says.
International powers are unlikely to meet their goal of
convening peace talks on Syria in Geneva next month as
differences emerge between Washington and Moscow over
opposition representation, Arab and Western officials said.