News / Middle East

Kerry Returns to Europe for Syria Talks

Kerry Returns to Europe for Syria Talksi
X
October 21, 2013 6:26 AM
A truck bomb explosion in Syria's fourth largest city of Hama killed more than 30 people Sunday, as the special envoy of the United Nations and Arab League held talks in Cairo on fixing a date for a long-delayed peace conference.
Kerry Returns to Europe for Syria Talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Europe for another round of talks with countries that are backing opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  They are trying to get political opponents to agree to talks on a transitional government in Geneva. 
 
"There has to be a transition government.  There has to be a new governing entity in Syria in order to permit the possibility of peace," said Kerry.
 
However, Assad's opponents have failed to come together behind Ahmad al-Jarba, who heads the main coalition group.
 
That is blocking any agreement on joining talks, thinks American University professor Akbar Ahmed.
 
"The Syrian opposition has unfortunately failed on two counts.  Number one, to organize all the various different groups that are fighting that are involved under one joint leadership.  Number two, failed to produce that charismatic leader who normally emerges in a situation like this so that people see an alternative," explained Ahmed.
 
Ahmed also pointed out that the growth of al-Qaida-affiliated militia further undermines the opposition, especially as some fighters are breaking away from the main rebel Free Syrian Army.
 
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that split does not weaken efforts to hold Geneva peace talks.
 
"There are thousands of different groups, and these are - many who were on this list were field commanders, so we’re still looking into what the exact impact will be.  Clearly, the opposition participation in a Geneva conference is vital," said Psaki.
 
With more civilians fleeing fighting, there are also questions about how inclusive a transitional government would come from those Geneva talks.
 
"There is an agreement among the opposition that it would need to be a government of inclusion.  There's an understanding of trying to find ways to protect the minorities, including the Alawites.  In theory there is a very strong agreement.  Again, what will happen in practice?" wondered Manal Omar, an analyst at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
 
President Assad has long claimed that foreign terrorists are targeting his Alawite minority and trying to divide the country.  With Russia and Iran behind him, Ahmed said President Assad has agreed in principle to Geneva talks because he is in a strong position.
 
"He knows the opposition hasn't quite formed into the movement that he thought may topple him in the beginning of this process several years back.  So his strategy is wear it out, just sit it out," said Ahmed.
 
President Assad's staying power unsettles some of his younger opponents, who have watched the return of military power in Egypt said Omar.
 
"They're fighting. They're sacrificing and watching Egypt and watching pretty much some of the same individuals and institutions re-emerge two years later really kind of struck fear in terms of what is happening in Syria after two years, after an incredible death count," explained Omar.
 
The war's impact on civilians is also part of talks in Europe this week. As much of one quarter of Syria's population is internally displaced and more than two million are now refugees.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs