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 37.

    I do not think that the arms-industry will allow peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    If everyone simply stopped giving weapons and ammunition to both sides, they'd have no real choice but to stop shelling each other, and the civilians caught in the middle of it all. That's very naive of me, I know, and it will never happen, but it was just a thought...

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    How can anyone expect agreement when the 'big' obstacle i.e. Assad, is ruled out from the start. And despite what some countries might claim, Assad is still there and still fighting on with support from the military of Syria. Some things that have be spouted just don't ring true. One thing still hangs in the air though, regime change. What a mess that the West has built. Still, divide and conquer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Until the West blindly supports the Saudis and Israelis there will be no peace in the ME.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.


    How are we involved exactly?"

    We are deeply involved, ever since our leaders encouraged the rebels. Without our glib - but ultimately toothless - encouragement, it would have been over months ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Time to send in OUR BOYS & WARPLANES!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    As an atheist, I look on in despair. Countless religious factions the world over, murdering and causing misery and for what?! Nothing less than a cloud cuckoo land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    We shouldn't get involved with Muslims unless it's in our national interest such as Iraq,oil, Afghanistan terrorist safe haven,The Muslim world and cultures are completely different to ours,we should not interfere,send humanitarian aid as we've always done we have no right to try and enforce western ideology such as democracy gay/woman's rights and freedom of speech on people who don't want it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Well, everyone said there'd be no accord by the end of the talks, and they sure didn't disappoint. Though Churchill was right to say that jaw-jaw is better than war-war, unfortunately the two things can often go on at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    These talks are designed to fail as everybody in the World can see!
    Maybe Russia is having problems in Kiev to persuade them to let go of Syria! You can see the slant in all the BBC reporting and people are tired of this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Essex Serpent
    ''Why are we getting involved in more conflicts that do not involve us?''

    How are we involved exactly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @2. Women don't get a voice in Islam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Am I the only one who can see that Damascus now is now the same as Damascus in 1918/19. Its 100 years later and the West are still meddling! At Versailles we drew lines on the map to try to run the Middle-East our way, it hasn't worked and it never will. We have to let the people there sort it out themselves, it will mean a lot more bloodshed, but not as much as there will be if we keep meddling

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    You supply arms and then condemn bloodshed? I am lost! I just wish the UK supported peace a bit more than it supports war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Then let the world stand back as they rip each other throats out. Why are we getting involved in more conflicts that do not involve us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    20. InfamousValdon : Our "Feud" with North Korea might just have something to do with them invading South Korea over 60 years ago....

    Plus can you explain why China & Russia (who aren't on your list of none Rothschild countries) back Assad?

    Plus you don't need a private bank to lend currency at 0% interest. BoE base rate is damned near that. Who'd want to borrow N.Korean cash at any interest?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    You do not need a peace agreement to stop killing civilians. You just need humanity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Cont. from first post...
    North Korea. Is it coincidence that the West has fueds with all of these countries, Ithink no t, It's really obvious what's going on here, the tragedy is innocent people are paying with their lives over this ridiculous greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    More time wasted and more questions asked about how useful the UN really is. We should be helping Syria fight these terrorists and condemning Saudi Arabia and Qatar for arming them. The only thing we should give to the terrorists are war hungry and immoral politicians who have no place in the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    14. uk2001 : that presumes the two sides are just two unified sides. The rebels are multiple factions including some real fanatics who will not accept being 'an opposition party'. It also hilariously presumes that neither side will want revenge on the other for the multiple atrocities carried out. You don't lightly forgive chemical weapons attacks.


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