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Things are hotting up in Montreux, on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where Oxfam campaigners are among the hundreds of diplomats, journalists, civil society and solidarity groups gathering for the beginning of the long awaited ‘Geneva II’ peace talks for Syria.
The Swiss town – an hour from Geneva – is a picture of Alpine tranquility, its reflection shimmering in the lake amongst the snow-capped mountains. Police are patrolling the edges of a security fence which rings the buildings where the talks will be held, but the atmosphere is calm, and the diplomatic dramas that have dominated the media in the last few days feel weirdly distant.
Despite the quiet and calm mood here, there is of course a huge amount at stake here in Geneva this week. Nothing is more urgent than these peace talks. As the Syrian conflict approaches its third anniversary, this is the best chance so far of ending the violence and alleviating the suffering of millions.
Geneva II must lead to real change for the Syrian people
More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed over the last three years; over half the population of Syria is in need of humanitarian assistance, with over 6.3 million people displaced within the country; more than 2 million people have had to flee the country altogether.
With such staggering numbers, some hope for the future is desperately needed right now. Political leaders need to make sure that these are not talks for the sake of talks – they must lead to real change for the Syrian people. If states can leave aside their own interests, and focus instead on what is best for Syria, there is a real chance for this to mark the start of a journey towards peace.
Oxfam is calling for
- A ceasefire for Syria, to stop the killing and to allow all who need assistance to be able to access it;
- A complete halt to the arms and ammunition transfers into Syria, which are fueling the conflict;
- The full and active participation of women and civil society organizations in the political process moving forward to give it the best possible chance of success.
We are joining with Syrian and global civil society this week to put pressure on political leaders not to let hope die, and work every second for a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Syria.
What Syrians want
Oxfam asked ordinary Syrians -- many of them refugees in Jordan -- what they want to come out of the Geneva talks. Here's what they told us:
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BBC's explainer: What is the Geneva II conference on Syria?