Delegates from more than 30 nations gathered in Switzerland on Wednesday to start talks on how to bring peace to Syria after nearly three years of conflict. Follow-up talks are set to begin Friday. Here are some of the key participants:

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John F. Kerry, U.S. secretary of state

The United States is pushing for a diplomatic settlement between the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels and for the formation of a transition government that does not include Assad. The United States has ruled out sending its military forces to Syria.

[Read a full transcript of Kerry’s remarks]

“There is no way — no way possible in the imagination — that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern. One man and those who have supported him can no longer hold an entire nation and a region hostage.”

(Gary Cameron/AP)

Walid al-Moualem, Syrian foreign minister

Syria’s government rejects the idea that the goal of the talks is to establish a temporary government to replace Assad. Moualem called for the United States and other Western backers of Syrian rebels to end aid to the opposition.

“Syrians here in this hall participated in all that has happened. They implemented — facilitated — the bloodshed and all at the expense of the Syrian people they claim to represent.”

(Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russia, a conference co-sponsor and ally and military supplier for Assad, insists that Assad does not need to be removed from power for there to be peace in Syria.

“We count on all outside players to encourage the Syrians to come to an agreement, to refrain and restrain the parties from attempts to predetermine the agreements.”

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

The United Nations has taken the position that talks should be based on the Geneva I communique from 2012, which allows for members of Assad’s government to partake in a transitional body but which is silent on whether Assad himself can remain.

“The Syrians themselves have the primary responsibility to end the conflict, determine their political system and future, and start rebuilding their country. The duty of all members of the international community, whether present in this room today or not, is to do everything within their power to help them achieve these goals.”

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Opposition leader Ahmad Assi al-Jarba

Jarba, whose coalition had resisted attending the talks, rejected the idea of peace if Assad stays in power.

“Any talk about Assad remaining in power threatens to derail the Geneva II conference.”

Source: Washington Post staff, Associated Press reports