The Vatican has scheduled a meeting for Jan. 13 to discuss the potential for a ceasefire in Syria, ahead of UN-backed peace talks in Geneva, planned to start on Jan. 24.

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo told Vatican Radio that a cessation of hostilities was vital “in order to allow humanitarian aid, to create humanitarian corridors that at the moment don’t exist, and the cessation of persecution against Christians and so-called interreligious martyrdom”.

He said that Syria’s Christians fear they are being targeted systematically by Islamist rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Vatican said Egyptian politician Mohamed El Baradei and American economist Jeffrey Sachs will attend the meeting. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has also been invited.