Vatican Sets Tone for "Peace of Westphalia'' Approach to Syria; Envoy Calls for Inclusion of Iran
January 23, 2014 • 11:35AM

Speaking at St. Peter's Square today, Pope Francis issued a call for successful discussions at the Geneva II conference to end the Syrian war, discussions which began today with a pre-meeting of 40 countries and representatives at Montreux, Switzerland. At the end of his Jan. 22 General Audience in Rome, Francis "asked delegates attending the meeting to seek, above all, the good for the suffering Syrian people and 'not spare any efforts to urgently reach a stop to the violence and end to the conflict,'" reported Prensa Latina.

"It will be a path where everyone can find in his fellow, not an enemy, not an adversary, but a brother to accept and embrace," Pope Francis said.

The Vatican sent two envoys to the Geneva II pre-meeting, identified as Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the UN agencies in Geneva, and Monsignor Alberto Ortega Martin of Vatican Secretariat of State.

Before the Montreux meeting began, in an interview with Radio Vaticana, Archbishop Tomasi said that it would be challenging to achieve real peace in Syria without the inclusion of Iran in the meeting, recalling the incident this week where, under pressure, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was forced to rescind his courageous invitation to Iran to take part in the meeting.

According to Radio Vaticana, Archbishop Tomasi said, "Politics demands that certain decisions be made.... We had to make some strange decisions. In my opinion, it is not very realistic to try to have peace without one of the key powers in the region. But we hope that, with the discussions underway on [Iran's] nuclear program, we can keep the door open a little, so as not to impede the dialogue that we are starting with Syria."

He commented that the absolute priority of the talks is to respond to the demand of the Syrian population to bring an end to the violence, death, and destruction. About 130,000 people have died and entire villages have been destroyed, said Radio Vaticana in a summary.

"Faced with this reality, the international community is seeking to respond with a sense of solidarity to find an acceptable compromise to begin effective negotiations," added the Archbishop.