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UN chief opens Syria peace talks, says challenges 'formidable'

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    From left: UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov join hands after their international conference on ending the crisis in Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Syria's main political opposition group in exile agreed on Saturday to attend internationally sponsored peace talks, and said for the first time three rebel fighting forces also wanted to take part. (AP Photo/Gary Cameron, Pool)The Associated Press

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    United States Secretary of State John Kerry, left, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, join hands after their tri-lateral meeting on ending the crisis in Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Syria's main political opposition group in exile agreed on Saturday to attend internationally sponsored peace talks, and said for the first time three rebel fighting forces also wanted to take part. (AP Photo/Gary Cameron, Pool)The Associated Press

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the peace talks for Syria, which opened Wednesday in Switzerland, face "formidable" challenges.

Ban called on the Syrian government and the opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith.

"We know that it has been an extremely difficult path to reach this point. We have lost valuable time and many many lives. Let me not mince words, the challenges before you and before all of us are formidable. But your presence here raises hope," he said in his opening remarks.

The peace conference marks the first time the government led by Bashar Assad and Western-backed members of the rebellion have met face-to-face. But the umbrella group representing the opposition is in disarray, and the talks themselves were in question just two days ago.