BEIRUT — With stakes high and expectations low, Syria’s government and its opponents sit down face-to-face at an international peace conference this week for the first time — muscled to the negotiating table by foreign powers that fear the bloodiest of the Arab Spring uprisings may engulf the entire region in sectarian war. The opening of the so-called Geneva 2 conference Wednesday in Switzerland reflects the unanimity in the international community about the urgent need to bring a halt to a conflict that has killed more than 130,000 people, touched off the worst humanitarian crisis in decades and unleashed sectarian hatreds that have sent tremors across the Middle East. Diplomats and political leaders acknowledge that the prospects of achieving such a lofty goal any time soon are slim at best. Both the government and the opposition have suffered enormous losses, but even now, neither side appears desperate enough for a deal to budge from its entrenched position. At this point, just getting the antagonists into the same room to start what is expected to be a long process that could drag on for years would be perceived as a success. Proponents also argue that the conference could provide an opening… Read full this story
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