Syria talks: Mediator apologises for lack of progress


The UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi: "It's not good for Syria that we come back for another round and fall in the same traps"

The UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has apologised to the Syrian people after peace talks in Geneva ended without making progress.

He had held final discussions with both sides in Geneva in a last-ditch bid to break the stalemate between the Syrian government and opposition.

Mr Brahimi said a key sticking point was the government's refusal to talk about a transitional governing body.

No date has been set for a third round of talks.

The UK and France have blamed President Assad's government for the failure of the talks.

The conflict in Syria has claimed more than 100,000 lives since March 2011.

Some 9.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.


Lakhdar Brahimi is a man of patience and pragmatism. But after final face-to-face talks that lasted just 27 minutes, he emerged looking tired and dejected.

The hope had been that he could persuade the two sides to agree a date for a third round, but it was not to be.

A measure of Mr Brahimi's frustration could be heard when he described the government and opposition fixation on their "pet subjects".

The opposition has always insisted that a transitional government should be discussed, the regime wants to talk about violence and terrorism.

Arguing about these two things has prevented them talking about anything else: about any small confidence-building measure that might bring some relief to the people of Syria.

Mr Brahimi suggested the regime's unwillingness to talk about transition was a particular obstacle, and instead of announcing progress, he found himself apologising to the Syrian people.

Suspicions raised

The discussions on Saturday morning lasted just 27 minutes, after which Mr Brahimi emerged looking tired to address reporters, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.

Mr Brahimi apologised to the Syrian people, admitting that the talks "had not come out with very much".

Although the two sides had agreed on an agenda for the next - third - round, Mr Brahimi said the government had rejected his suggestion to begin it by spending a day focusing on combating violence and terrorism, and a second day discussing a transitional government.

Mr Brahimi said the government's stance "raises the suspicion of the opposition that the government doesn't want to discuss [a transitional government] at all".

He said he hoped that when the government spoke of implementing the 2012 Geneva Communique on bringing about a political settlement "they do mean a transitional governing body, exercising full executive power, will be the main objective".

But the government's chief negotiator, Bashar al-Jaafari, stressed that "terrorism" - rebel violence - must be dealt with fully first.

Syria peace talks in Geneva

  • First round: 22-31 January - ends in bitter recriminations, but ceasefire in Homs agreed
  • Second round: 10-15 February - UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi apologises for failure, sides still far apart
  • Third round: agenda, but no date agreed, according to Mr Brahimi. Major sticking points still "terrorism" and transitional governing body

"Once you have an agenda you should respect the agenda fully without any interpretation or misinterpretation... we said that we cannot move from... item one to item two or item three or item four without fully considering this item and concluding by a common vision of this item by the two sides, something that the other side objected to."

Opposition spokesman Louay Safi again insisted on discussion of a transitional government that does not include President Bashar al-Assad - something the government rejects.

"A third round without talking about transition would be a waste of time," Mr Safi said.

Lakhdar Brahimi (centre), the Syrian opposition's Louay Safi (l) and Bashar Jaafari (r) for the Syrian government, Geneva, 15 February 2014 Lakhdar Brahimi (centre) was unable to produce progress in the talks involving the opposition's Louay Safi (l) and for the Syrian government, Bashar al-Jaafari (r)

Mr Brahimi said both sides needed "to go back to their base" for consultations and to think about whether they wanted the process to continue or not.

In further reaction to the breakdown of the talks, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague laid the blame squarely at the door of the Syrian government but said the Geneva process must continue.

"This cannot be the end of the road. With the war in Syria causing more death and destruction every day, we owe it to the people of Syria to do all we can to make progress towards a political solution."

Mr Hague said Britain would also continue to push for a UN Security Council resolution to address the "appalling humanitarian suffering in Syria".

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the Syrian regime had "blocked any progress on establishing a transition government and stepped up violence and acts of terror against the civilian population."

Applying pressure

Rebel fighters help unload aid food during a UN-led humanitarian operation in the besieged Syrian city of Homs The agreement to allow aid into Homs was a rare success from the talks

So far, the only agreement in the latest negotiations was to allow civilians to leave the besieged city of Homs and aid to enter.

Correspondents say at least 5,000 people are believed to have died since the first round of the Geneva talks began on 22 January.

US President Barack Obama said on Friday that he was considering ways of putting more pressure on President Assad, though he did not expect any resolution in the short term.

Speaking in California, where he was meeting Jordan's King Abdullah, he said: "There will be some intermediate steps that we can take applying more pressure to the Assad regime and we are going to be continuing to work with all the parties concerned to try to move forward on a diplomatic solution."

Mr Obama did not disclose what steps he has under consideration.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    [1500 YEAR WAR]
    "NO but the internal conflict started about then when the Sunnis and Shia started to disagree wit(h?) each other and continues today."

    The earliest accepted date for Shia Sunni conflict is the 7th Century.

    Could you make an effort to at least get your dates right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    333Russia aided and abetted Iran's effort to acquire nuclear weapons every way it could.Russia's is as dumb as a stump.It can't do anything on its own and it can't do anything right.Everything it has is stolen mostly from the US and when they copy it, it's usually junk.They couldn't even make a toilet right.

    They are their own worst enemy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    The Russians apparently feared a nuclear-armed Islamic state that stretched from Lebanon through Syria, Iraq, and Iran into Afghanistan -- and now it looks like that might actually happen. How can you expect the Russians to support that danger right across the Caspian from their country? How can you expect the U.S. to support an Al Qaeda-controlled opposition? If Assad dumps WMDs, keep him!

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    I am extremely pleased with results of the US invasion of Iraq.We still don't know if some of the WMDs Syria has came from Iraq just before the invasion.We do know they had them at one time because they used them on their own Kurds

    The Arab spring may be fallout over Iraq.Excellent!The rigid seemingly unchanging despotic rulers have to wonder when their turn will come.The applecart is upended

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Syria, not that long ago, was a vibrant country. People working at their trades and looking after their family.

    What happened & how...I don't think we will know. Its a tragedy for sure and a look at how humanity can be inhumane.


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