News / Middle East

Syria Peace Talks Face Delay as Big Powers Split

Officials from 11 nations known as the Friends of Syria met Tuesday with members of the Syrian opposition in London, Oct. 22, 2013.
Officials from 11 nations known as the Friends of Syria met Tuesday with members of the Syrian opposition in London, Oct. 22, 2013.
Reuters
International powers are unlikely to meet their goal of convening peace talks on Syria in Geneva next month as differences emerge between Washington and Moscow over opposition representation, Arab and Western officials said.
 
Failure of the main Syrian National Coalition to take a clear stance over the talks, which aim to find a political solution to Syria's 2-1/2 year civil war, are also expected to contribute to a delay of up to one month, the officials told Reuters.
 
“A clearer picture will emerge when the United States and Russia meet next week, but all indications show that the Nov. 23 goal will be difficult to meet,” said one of the officials involved in preparing for the talks.
 
U.S., Russian and U.N envoys are due to meet in Geneva next Tuesday as part of the preparation for the long-delayed peace conference, which was first proposed back in May.
 
A main point of contention, the official said, is the role of the Western-backed opposition coalition - an issue which has flared up since a meeting in London last week of Western and Gulf Arab countries opposed to Assad.
 
They announced that the Geneva negotiations should be between a “single delegation of the Syrian regime and a single delegation of the opposition, of which the Syrian National Coalition should be the heart and lead, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”
 
Russia sees the coalition as just one part of the opposition and has suggested that several delegations, including Damascus-based figures tolerated by the government, could represent President Bashar al-Assad's foes.
 
That position was echoed by Hassan Abdul Azim, head of the opposition National Coordination Body, who said after meeting international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus that delegates should attend not under the banner of the coalition but as part of a united “Syrian National Opposition”.
 
A communique at the end of the London meeting also said Geneva would aim to establish a transitional government by which time “Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria”.
 
“The Russians are furious at the strong stance taken in London and that the communiquDe went a long way towards satisfying the demands of the coalition,” a Western official said.
 
Minister sacked
 
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil listens during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, July 22, 2013.Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil listens during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, July 22, 2013.
x
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil listens during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, July 22, 2013.
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil listens during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, July 22, 2013.
Preparations for the Geneva talks were thrown into further confusion on Tuesday by the dismissal of Syria's Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, after he met senior U.S. diplomat Robert Ford in Geneva on Saturday.
 
Jamil, a member of what Assad describes as the “patriotic opposition”, was sacked for leaving the country without permission and holding unauthorized meetings, state media said.
 
“He saw Ford after meeting Russian officials in Moscow. The meeting was long but useless,” a Middle East official said, asking not to be named.
 
“Jamil put forward what Ford apparently regarded as unworkable proposals regarding the Geneva talks. He also unsuccessfully tried to win U.S. backing to include him on the opposition side in the Geneva talks,” he said.
 
Another diplomatic source said Russia had backed the idea, but that the coalition would not have agreed to sit on the same side of the table as Jamil in any negotiations.
 
“It will take time between Russia and the United States to resolve their differences. We are looking now at Geneva between Nov. 23 and Christmas,” he said.

Opposition undecided
 
Differences between Moscow and Washington are not the only obstacles to the peace talks going ahead.
 
Ahmad Jarba, president of the opposition coalition, has publicly resisted calls to commit to attending the Geneva conference, saying the coalition will not take part if there is any chance Assad might cling to power.
 
“He was speaking to his constituency and his public stance differs from what he told us privately,” one delegate at last week's London meeting said, trying to play down the significance of Jarba's stance.
 
“We assured Jarba that an understanding had been reached with the Russians for Geneva to produce a transitional governing body with full powers over the army and security apparatus and that Assad would not be allowed to retain power under any special clauses. But his fate will not be specifically discussed at Geneva,” the delegate said.
 
Even if Jarba were to attend, he has no authority over the rebel brigades battling to overthrow Assad. Many have rejected any negotiations not centered around Assad's removal and said they would charge anyone who attended them with treason.
 
Opposition sources said Jarba, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, traveled there in recent days to meet King Abdullah. Jarba will preside over a coalition meeting in Istanbul on Nov. 9 to discuss taking a position on Geneva.
 
“The meeting will likely stretch for up to a week as usual. What is required is for the coalition to forget rhetoric and come up with a strategy, road map and a detailed policy,” one envoy said.
 
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was still planning for a November conference but “no date or details is set or final until the United Nations announces it.”
 
There was no immediate comment from officials at the United Nations or in Moscow.
 
Several officials, including Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, have said they expect the Geneva 2 conference to convene on Nov. 23, though the United States, Russia and the United Nations have all said no date has been officially set.
 
“A date has not been officially set because no one wants it to be officially postponed,” a Western diplomat said. “But it has been clear all along the aim was Nov 23. It looks now that it will be de facto postponed.”

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid