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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs