An exchange of words between Syria’s foreign minister and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created a tense start to the Geneva II Conference on Syria (a UN-backed conference called to negotiate a settlement to the three-year-long Syrian civil war) which started on January 22 in the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux.
Three international aid agencies issued a report on January 21 claiming that the Syrian government is responsible for the “systematic killing” of approximately 11,000 detainees held in Syrian jails.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced to reporters in New York on January 19 that Iran had been invited to the Geneva II peace conference, a conference between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders, meant to transfer power from Syria's ruler, Bashar al-Assad, to a transitional government. As a condition for the invitation, Iran has agreed to support the full implementation of the Geneva communique, including the establishment of the transitional governing body, overturning Iran's Syrian ally.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called in the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy, and Spain on January 17 to “stress to them that their perpetual one-sided stance against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians is unacceptable and creates the impression they are only seeking ways to blame Israel,” said his spokesman.
Former Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon, who died on January 11 after spending eight years in a coma following a major stroke in 2006, was laid to rest on January 13. Sharon’s funeral ceremonies began Monday morning with an official ceremony at the Knesset, where the late prime minister’s body lay in state on Sunday. Among those delivering speeches at the ceremony were Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Israel’s housing ministry published plans on January 10 to build 1,400 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In response to the announcement, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said, “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a message to Mr. Kerry today, and the message reads: Do not continue your peace efforts.... They know very well that this destroys the peace process.”
An Arab Christian has gotten the go-ahead from Israeli tourism officials to erect a 100-foot statue of Jesus in the Muslim-dominated city of Nazareth.
Mohamad Chatah, who served as Lebanon’s Ambassador to the United States from 1997 to 2000, was assassinated on December 27 when a car bomb struck his car in downtown Beirut.
On Christmas Day, more than three dozen civilians in Iraq were reportedly slaughtered in a series of coordinated bombings aimed at Christians. In one of the attacks, a terrorist car bomb went off near a church right after mass, killing 26 and wounding almost 40, officials said. A separate attack moments earlier targeted an outdoor market in the Christian section of Athorien, leaving 11 dead and more than 20 wounded.
When the Chinese regime remembered the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth on December 26, it was to celebrate, not condemn, his role in history — though the regime did at least acknowledge that Mao had made “mistakes.”
Nam Jae-Joon, the head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, briefing his National Assembly’s intelligence committee on December 23, disputed the official line that Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, was executed because he had been plotting a coup.