"Negotiations will be difficult, but without them, there is only bloodshed and despair on the horizon," Ban said at UN Headquarters in New York.

"We are on track to convene the conference on 22 January next year," he said.

"I count on those with influence to encourage the Syrian parties to come to the conference with the serious intention to end the war and agree on a peaceful transition," he said.

The conference will be held in Switzerland in two parts, with the opening session in Montreux on January 22, 2014, and then moving on January 24 to the UN office in Geneva.

It will be the first time the Syrian government and the opposition meet at a negotiating table since the conflict started in March 2011.

The conference's objective will be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communique.

The communique was adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on June 30, 2012, which called for the creation of a transitional government that would lead to holding elections.

(Agencies)

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