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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs