Pope backs Syria peace conference bid

Pope backs Syria peace conference bidVatican City, June 6 - Pope Francis has voiced support for international attempts to convene a peace conference to be attended by Syria's government and opposition.

The Pope also urged nations to help Syrian refugees.

"In recent weeks, the international community has reaffirmed its intention to foster concrete initiatives to launch a fruitful dialogue aimed at ending the (Syrian) war," Francis said.

"These initiatives should be encouraged, and it is hoped that they will lead to peace," the Pope told Catholic aid groups assisting refugees in Syria and the region.

More than 80,000 people have died and over a million have fled their homes since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's rule began in March 2011, according to the UN.

"I ask nations to provide humanitarian aid for the displaced and refugees besides pursuing a negotiated solution to the conflict," Francis said.

The pontiff's comments came as Russian, UN and US diplomats met in Geneva to plan an international peace conference, now postponed from June to July amid wrangling over who should attend.

There is also growing concern over the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, and other war crimes allegedly being committed by both sides.

"In the face of the continuing, overwhelming violence, I strongly renew my appeal for peace," Francis said.

"We need to build a peaceful future for Syria in which everyone can live freely," the Pope said. (IANS)


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