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.


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

    Comment number 17.

    Best thing, dont mess about with all the comforts in Geneva.

    Set the next meeting up in middle of war zone, couple of seats facing each other, oppositions on them, not allowed to go anywhere until deal done, bullets & bombs flying around & see how long it takes them to reach agreement for ceasefire, or just get them parts in Eastenders

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I fully support the Syrian minister's assertion that the Syrian people should determine how they are to be governed. They have been denied that ever since Ḥafiz al-Assad assumed power in 1971.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I think we all knew what would happen - nothing. Assad thinks he's winning, the opposition is split with fundamentalists moving in. Iran, Russia & China fund Assad. Gulf States fund Anti-Assad, so lots of vested interests & money.

    There's all the fuel here for this to go on for years. Sadly thousands more will die & millions more will be displaced. UN - bluster & impotence, par for the course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Syrian Government says National Election is due in six months. Peace is simple then! Fire the last shot today at 21.59GMT, ask funding paties to stop investing in arms but ensure a peaceful and fair election. Looser to sit in the opposition till next election. Does all have will and respect for peace, freedom and democracy or they just want to go on with this proxy war?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The real reason the West wants Assad removed from power is actually very simple, Syria is 1 of 3 countries left without a privatised central bank, their central bank is currently state owned and operated, meaning they can issue currency at 0% interest. In 2000 there where 8 countries without privately owned central banks those countries were Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Cuba and,

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Keep talking....

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    what so called opposition members live in 5* hotel (outside syria) they get their wages paid, their personal accounts filled up, they have no control over terrorist groups who control large areas such entire city of alraqqa.
    The real dialog must be within syrians inside syria with those aiming for peaceful life, not idiots going around setting off bombs in schools and kids play areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    9. andy . How, exactly, do 'we' persuade Putin to do anything? I love the idea Putin gives a damn what anyone in the west things.

    If you think Israeli missiles shooting down Syrian jets would END the war I'm glad you're not in power.

    This war is going to continue indefinitely because both sides think they can win & both are doomed if they lose. Genocide of the losers is a certain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    We messed up achieving a possible end to this war :
    1. Initially by not persuading Poutine to get Assad to stop killing peaceful demonstrators
    2.Subsequently by not enforcing a no fly zone on Assad's bombers by US ships or Israeli missiles.

    With no help from us,its understandable that the rebels accepted help from Islamists who have caused us additional worries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    It is a good thing the talks happened. The only eventual solution is political, and that happens one slow step at a time. This is a small, bitter step.

    There is a sad irony in the destructive narrative of absolutes. If the opposition would only grant Assad safety, they would be able to trade for a peace that would allow him a dignified exit in years to come.

    Peace requires a long term vision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    A huge yellow streak of Political, Factional and Religious Cowardice all round, yet millions are displaced and tens thousands are dead, and no end to the turmoil in sight.

    Shame on the UN, UK, US, EU, Russia, China, the opposing factions in Syria, and collective religious leaders around the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I work for the UN. Mr Brahimi's is the most thankless task anyone could be saddled with; nothing the UN does is ever right, or good enough, and the whole world's to blame for the war and its consequences. Except, of course, the Syrians fighting it - all 'for the Syrian people'. Sickening. It's beyond me how he remains polite and doesn't yield to the desire to bang their heads together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    These 'peace' talks were designed to fail from the start.
    This is a key strategy in the US's proxy war with Russia, there will be no peace.

    And Ukraine? BBC your biased news coverage is becoming more blatant by the day. Your bosses appear to want regime change there too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    It is clear now as it was at the start that the US, France and the UK have got it wrong and that Russia has got it right. The pathological dislike of Iran is blinding the West. The reality is its a Sunni/Shia/ Kurd thing and no sense will ever emerge until both Irag and Syria are restructured on religious lines, although the UN always says such things cannot happen, but ultimately it will have to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The West and their Arab allies have a lot invested in the removal of Assad, so it seems these talks were set up to fail. We'd be naïve to think that the anti-Assad mob have simply given up. They'll continue to do everything in their power to assure his overthrow (whatever the consequences). So much for the Syrian people and their right to self-determination!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Key players were excluded from these talks, suggesting they were set up to fail. Iran is the obvious one, but a little known fact is women from across Syria put together a Syrian Women’s Charter for Peace, but their request to be included in the talks was denied. Since women and children are those who've suffered the most you would expect their voice would be the most important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Its all smoke and mirrors. They are still fighting and will continue to do so no matter what you think the outcome is. ask everyone to talk to your reps and tell them how important it is that we get control of the middle east before it starts controlling us


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