Syria crisis: Geneva peace talks end in recriminations

 

Lakhdar Brahimi said the gap was wide but there had been some progress

The Syrian government and opposition have traded insults after a week-long peace conference in Geneva ended with no firm agreement.

Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the opposition were immature, while the opposition's Louay Safi said the regime had no desire to stop the bloodshed.

However, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he had seen some "common ground", and scheduled more talks for 10 February.

The opposition has agreed to take part, but Mr Muallem refused to commit.

Walid Muallem: The opposition lack maturity

"We represent the concerns and interests of our people. If we find that [another meeting] is their demand, then we will come back," he told reporters.

Analysis

The only obvious success from these talks is that a second round is planned. There's been no breakdown. Even that small achievement was not guaranteed when this process was launched by Ban Ki-moon 10 days ago.

The lack of concrete results, however disappointing, is not surprising. Levels of anger, even hatred between the two delegations, were very apparent in Geneva. Civil war is usually even harder to end than war between states.

In this case, it's not just that the core divides are so stark over ending the violence and discussing the possibility of sharing power. The order in which those issues are dealt with is disputed too. Expect a lot of focus at international meetings over the next few days on failure to achieve any agreement on humanitarian issues too.

He railed at the opposition, saying they had tried to "implode the conference" by insisting that the government hands power over.

Mr Safi said the opposition would not sit in talks "endlessly", and urged the government to "talk seriously about transferring power".

Opposition leader Ahmed Jarba said he and his colleagues had "stood up to the regime, a regime that only knows blood and death".

The two sides discussed humanitarian issues and possible ways to end the violence.

They made some agreements on local ceasefires to allow access for humanitarian workers.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos said the deals had allowed some aid to get through to a few thousand families.

Ahmed Jarba: Geneva talks were like drinking from a poisoned chalice

But she said that, so far, an agreed ceasefire in the besieged city of Homs had not had any effect, and no aid has got through.

Parts of Homs have been under government siege for more than 18 months. Some residents have told the BBC that they are eating grass to survive.

More than 100,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

Rebels not represented

Mr Brahimi said: "Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner. This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build."

Though the gap between the two sides was "wide", they had become used to sitting in the same room, he said.

Smoke billows following an alleged air strike by Syrian government forces on January 31 As talks came to an end in Geneva, activists accused government forces of an air strike in Aleppo
Children cut wood pieces in the besieged area of Homs January 28 And there was still no respite for residents in the besieged city of Homs
 Lakhdar Brahimi leaves after a press briefing at the United Nations on January 28 Lakhdar Brahimi said there was "a little bit of common ground" between the two sides in Geneva

"There have been moments when one side has even acknowledged the concerns and difficulties of the other side," he said.

The first round of talks between the government and the opposition National Coalition began last week.

Geneva Communique

A UN-backed meeting in 2012 issued the document and urged Syria to:

  • Form transitional governing body
  • Start national dialogue
  • Review constitution and legal system
  • Hold free and fair elections

Both sides agreed to use a 2012 document known as the Geneva Communique as a basis for discussions, and agreed to meet in the same room.

But neither side could agree on the focus, with the opposition insisting that political transition was the focus, and the government wanting to talk about terrorism.

Diplomats described the atmosphere between the two sides as extremely tense all the way through the conference.

And the talks were further hampered by the lack of representation of some of the rebel fighting groups, including the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

Diplomats have said that a top priority in Geneva is to keep the talks process going, in the hope that hard-line positions can be modified over time.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 237.

    The UN have said that the rich west should take on the Syrian refugees - I'm not arguing - but have they forgotten that the World's rich countries are right on the doorstep of Syria - namely Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Bahrain, Abu dhabi etc.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 236.

    The main reason these talks are going nowhere is because the Syrian Government know that the west won't do anything. And, the west won't do anything because Obama followed Cameron's lead and chickened out. And, Cameron chickened out because between him and Miliband, Syrian lives are worth far less than their own distorted partisan politics and their chicken-ass pundits. Genocide sucks.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 235.

    So the killing continues and humans are destroyed in most brutal ways. The so called peace talks representatives squabble and call each other names. They are so far away from the war themselves they cannot even hear the screams as the innocent are slaughtered.

    Am I really supposed not to care that the different sides in this atrocity, with no right or wrong, cannot even listen to one another?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 234.

    An opposition that leads its battles from 5 star hotels in Istanbul and Paris is not opposition.

    This SNC is subordinated to golf dictatorships. They don't represent a single syrian living in that country.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 233.

    If at first you don't succeed - try again, and then again ... and keep going, however long it takes.

    People's lives are worth that, at least.

 

Comments 5 of 237

 

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