News / Middle East

    UN Envoy: Syria Peace Talks to Start Friday

    FILE - A Syrian police officer walks past a group of local people standing at a building with a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Salma, Syria, Jan. 22, 2016.
    FILE - A Syrian police officer walks past a group of local people standing at a building with a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Salma, Syria, Jan. 22, 2016.
    Lisa Schlein

    The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria said the delayed intra-Syrian peace talks will start at the end of the week, on January 29, and invitations will be sent out Tuesday.

    Government backers of different opposition groups have stalemated the talks so far because of their opinions as to who should and who should not be allowed to come to Geneva.

    U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said he wants to get the negotiations off on the right foot, so he will not divulge the names of the people on the invitation list.

    But, de Mistura noted the Security Council considers the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra as terrorist organizations, so they will not be invited.

    Otherwise, he said the invitations will be broadly based on the principle of inclusiveness. He said women and civil society members, who have been largely absent from previous Syrian peace negotiations, will be present in large numbers.

    Agenda

    De Mistrua said the agenda will include discussions of new governance, a new constitution and new elections. But, he added the first priority of the talks will be to achieve a broad cease-fire and to stop the threat posed by IS, also known as ISIL.

    “The suspension of fighting regarding ISIL in particular and Al Nusra is not on the table. But, there is plenty of other suspensions of fighting that can take place,” he said.

    De Mistura said the talks will begin without preconditions. He said the parties will not be meeting face to face, so he is aiming for proximity talks. He also expects to be involved in a lot of shuttling among the different delegations until direct talks can begin.

    He said the negotiations will go on for six months in what he calls a staggered, chronological, proximity approach.

    “That will be the way we try to make it different from the past. This is not Geneva three. This is leading to what we hope will be a Geneva success story, if we are able to push it forward,” de Mistura said.

    The U.N. mediator said the first round of talks will last between two and three weeks. He said he expects the process to be an uphill battle, with a lot of posturing and many “walk-ins” and “walk-outs” by the participants.

    He said the main obstacles to achieving a peace agreement are lack of trust and lack of political will.

    Speaking during a visit to Laos Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it is better to wait a few days to open talks and properly set up the process rather than have it fall apart on the first day.

    "What we are trying to do is make sure that we are absolutely certain that when they [the talks] start, everybody is clear about roles and what's happening, so that you don't go there and wind up with a question mark or a failure," Kerry said.

    Opposition groups

    He reiterated U.S. support for the opposition, following comments from opposition officials who said they felt like they were being pressured into the talks.

    "The position of the United States is and hasn't changed," Kerry said. "We are still supporting the opposition, politically, financially and militarily."

    He also said it is ultimately up to the Syrian parties to decide the future of their country, including the role of President Bashar al-Assad.

    "I told them you have a veto, and so does he and so you're going to have to decide how to move forward," he said.

    Kerry also downplayed comments from the Syrian government indicating it would not bend on its positions heading into the talks.

    The U.N. has twice before tried to broker an agreement for Syria, but that attempt at peace ended two years ago with little progress.

    Pam Dockins contributed to this report from Laos.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    January 25, 2016 8:44 PM
    UN role in conflict of Syria is Shameful. UN was keep quite when Sponsors of Terrorism was creating problems in Syria since 2011. These Terrorists killed more than 300,000/= Poor Syrians in miserable conditions and same nos become homeless. Basic structure damaged completely.
    Who is responsible for this Loss. I think Sponsors of Human Killers are responsible. Actions must be taken against Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, UAE, Israel and USA. Who are they to decide who will rule Syria.
    What is going on in Saudi Arabia, USA cannot see. There is no freedom and then USA is supporting Saudi Arabia because SA is major buyer of USA Weapons for Human Killers. USA is also getting SA oil on very cheap rate. Because of these reasons USA supported SA to create one more Terrorist organisation Daesh after Al Qaida, Taliban, Nusrat Front.
    UN role in this world should be to give justice but sorry to say UN always supported rich and power full countries.

    by: CDNborn from: Canada
    January 25, 2016 8:17 AM
    If the US and Saudi Arabia continue to militarily and financially back the "moderate rebels" (terrorists) there won't be an end to the Syrian civil war. And to have a rogue group of terrorists say that Russia has to stop bombing them before they'll entertain peace talks is just ludicrous.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora