Jan. 22 - Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gather outside the Geneva 2 peace conference in Montreux, Switzerland. Nathan Frandino reports.
Outside the highly anticipated Geneva 2 peace conference, Arabs are rallying behind Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In solidarity, these protesters brought Syrian flags, pictures of Assad and banners to express their support. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HUDA MAKHOUL, A SYRIAN WOMAN LIVING IN SWITZERLAND, SAYING: "I came here to say that I am with Syria, my country. I am with Assad because he has protected it and we are against terrorism and against what is happening in Syria. We do not accept that Syria is destroyed because of terrorism." Just down the street at the Montreux Palace hotel, Syria's government and opposition are meeting face to face for the first time. In the conference room, emotions are running high with contrasting views on Assad's future. Back on the street, support remains firm among rally attendees, which included Lebanese and Iraqi citizens living in Switzerland. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HASSAN MUSSAWI, AN IRAQI MAN LIVING IN SWITZERLAND, SAYING: "We came today because we trust the Syrian government and president Assad and to support the rights of Syrian people against the killings and the terror attacks that are hitting their country. It is the same terrorism that hits my country and all the Arab countries which are being hit by explosions and killings based on sectarianism and ethnicity." The first day of peace talks has seen the opposition accuse Assad's forces of war crimes while the government painted a graphic picture of "terrorist" rebel atrocities.