(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia and Iran are among more than 30 countries invited to attend the Geneva 2 peace conference amid expectations that the Jan. 22 event would end the three-year-old Syrian tragedy that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced millions.
Saudi political analyst Jamal Khashoggi expressed hope that the participation of Saudi Arabia in the conference would help bring about peace in Syria.
"Although Saudi Arabia is not happy with Iran's invitation to the conference, being the supporter of the dictator (Bashar Assad), I strongly believe that we should attend this conference in support of the Syrian opposition," Khashoggi told Arab News.
"Geneva 2 is aimed at finding a solution to the conflict that has killed thousands of innocent people and to form a transitional government with full power," he said.
Khashoggi said Saudi Arabia would support the Syrian National Coalition at the conference while reiterating the Kingdom's stance that Assad should not be part of the new government. He said Riyadh is seeking a quick end to the tragedy. There are currently 32 countries invited to the conference, but that number may increase because other countries want to join, an Arab diplomat said.
In addition to the five permanent members of the Security Council, there are also neighboring countries attending, as well as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and Germany and Italy, the Arab diplomat said.
Most countries will be represented by their top diplomats and "each minister can speak for five minutes," the Arab diplomat said. Many of the foreign ministers will then attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, which runs from Jan. 22 to 25.
Bashar Assad's regime and the opposition will each send delegations to the meeting and will hold bilateral talks hosted by UN-Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, on Jan. 24 in Geneva.
"Each delegation will be composed of nine members and both the regime and the opposition should present their lists to the UN by Dec. 27, but it is not certain that they will respect this date," the Arab diplomat said.
Diplomats said they expected the atmosphere at the talks to be tense, and a European diplomat at the UN said UN officials would meet with the delegates ahead of the conference to explain the "rules of the game."