News / Middle East

Kerry Slams Syrian Efforts to Change Focus of Geneva Peace Talks

Kerry Slams Syrian Efforts to Change Focus of Geneva Peace Talksi
X
January 17, 2014 1:23 AM
Secretary of state is pushing back against efforts by Assad government to change focus of talks from forming a transitional government to fighting terrorism
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to join peace talks planned for Switzerland next week. Kerry is pushing back against efforts by the Assad government to change the focus of those talks from forming a transitional government to fighting terrorism.

International efforts to stop the fighting in Syria focus on forming a broad transitional government.

But President Assad says he is sending delegates to next week's talks in Switzerland not to give up power but to fight terrorists, among whom he includes the armed opposition.

Secretary Kerry says that is an effort to "rewrite history" by undermining the peace process before it even begins.

"It is about establishing a process essential to the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive power established by mutual consent." said Kerry.

President Assad's move to shift that focus reflects the far stronger position he is in now than when this process began, says former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli.

"He and his supporters had a reason to talk to people about how to end the violence. They're not on the ropes [losing] anymore. They're on the ascendancy. They're in control of most of the country," said Ereli. "What reason in the world do they have to talk about a transition?"

Fighting between the main rebel Free Syrian Army and more extremist militias affiliated with al-Qaida helps justify President Assad's push to focus on terrorism, says U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann.

"From the regime's perspective, the more they can change the terms of the negotiations, the better off they'll be. But the further they go in that direction, the less value there is for the opposition in even showing up," said Heydemann.

With the main opposition coalition due to vote Friday on whether to attend these talks, Kerry urged them not to miss the opportunity to form a new government where all members must be agreed to by both sides.

"Any figure that is deemed unacceptable by either side - whether President Assad or a member of the opposition - cannot be a part of the future," he said.

But President Assad's biggest supporters - Russia and Iran - do not accept the presumption of an end to Assad rule, says American University professor Hillary Mann Leverett.

"The Russians are completely against that interpretation. The Iranians, another critical player in this saga, are not going to sign onto that. It's really a formula for diplomatic failure," said Leverett.

As fighting in Syria continues, Kerry says the Geneva peace talks are the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and their revolution.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
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 Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs