News / Middle East

Syria Peace Talks Reach an Impasse

Louay Safi, spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition, addresses a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Feb. 14, 2014.
Louay Safi, spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition, addresses a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Feb. 14, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
Five days of peace talks aimed at ending Syria's civil war ended in a bitter impasse on Friday with Syrian government and opposition negotiators trading accusations over who was to blame for the stalemate at the UN-mediated talks in Geneva. 

U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met separately with the Syrian government and opposition delegations Friday.  When the meetings ended, the two parties held separate news conferences to vent frustrations with each other's negotiating positions.
 
The one issue that both delegations were able to agree upon was that the other party was responsible for the deadlock in the three-week old peace process.

Watch related video by VOA's Jeff Seldin

Syrian Talks Stagger, Progress Remains Elusivei
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February 14, 2014 10:37 PM
Talks in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's nearly three-year-long civil war appear to be going nowhere, with signs the two countries which pushed for the talks -- the United States and Russia -- may be split over what comes next. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports.

"We have reached a point which we cannot overcome without the presence of another team [Syrian government delegation] who is willing to deal with a peaceful solution," Syrian opposition spokesman Louay Safi told reporters, adding that the five days of negotiations had come to a "dead end'' because of the government delegation's "belligerence.''

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad countered that the opposition came to the talks with an "unrealistic agenda.''

"I think those who do not give a chance for discussion and agreement on combating terrorism are definitely not part of the Syrian people," he said.

Safi told reporters his side had submitted a proposal, which gives a comprehensive view of what it believes should be present in a transitional government for Syria.
 
He said the plan touches on issues regarding a cease-fire, the release of prisoners, humanitarian access and other elements needed to create a political solution for ending the violence.  Unfortunately, he said the government side has not responded to this proposal.
 
"We came to these negotiations with a lot of doubts that we have a negotiating party, that the regime is serious about a political solution," Safi said.  "We put before the regime a proposal for such a solution that addresses the concerns of all Syrians. It is about five pages, 24 separate items and the regime would not even really acknowledge that proposal. And, so, that is quite, quite disappointing."
 
Safi said this is not a deal breaker, adding that his delegation will not withdraw from the negotiations.  But he urged both the United States and Russia, who are the main backers of the Geneva Conference, to put pressure on the Syrian regime to negotiate in good faith.
 
Syrian government position

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad addresses the media after a meeting at the Geneva Conference on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Feb. 14, 2014.Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad addresses the media after a meeting at the Geneva Conference on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Feb. 14, 2014.
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Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad addresses the media after a meeting at the Geneva Conference on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Feb. 14, 2014.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad addresses the media after a meeting at the Geneva Conference on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Feb. 14, 2014.
The government delegation put a different spin on things.  It agreed with the opposition that no progress toward a political solution has been made. But Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, Fayssal Mikdad blamed the Opposition's insistence on talking only about a transitional governing body for the deadlock.
 
"We are ready to discuss everything and we reaffirmed in all the meetings that we have held with you, we reaffirmed that we insist on starting with the ending of violence and the fighting of terrorism," he said. "We are willing to discuss the question of the transitional governing body once we have reached an agreement on fighting terrorism."
 
The two sides have not budged from these positions since the talks started.  The regime  refuses to discuss the transitional process because it would entail the removal from power of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US, Russia weigh in

The United States,  which supports the rebels, and Russia, which supports the Syrian government, have both criticized the deadlock.

A senior U.S. official said Friday, Syria's government delegation has
been "stonewalling every step of the way'' in Geneva peace talks and Washington expects Russia to pressure them to engage seriously in the peace process.

"We hope and trust that because the Russians believe in a political solution, a diplomatic solution, they will urge the regime to engage in a serious and constructive way,'' the official told Reuters news agency. "The regime hasn't done so yet, that speaks for itself.''

Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Beijing Friday the U.S. is concerned the Geneva talks are not producing the kind of discussion on a transition government that is needed. He said President Barack Obama has asked people in his administration to think about various options for Syria "that may or may not exist."

Brahimi determined to find solution

U.N. mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi normally briefs on the status of the talks, but on this occasion, decided to stay away from the two parties' public airing of grievances.
 
Thursday he told reporters that he sees failure staring him in the face, but insisted that the United Nations will not leave any stone unturned to find a solution to a conflict that has killed more than 130,000 people and displaced 9.5 million others.

Jeff Seldin in Washington contributed to this report, some information provided by Reuters

  • Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai (left), who was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education, talks to Syrian refugee Mazoon Rakan, 16, about Mazoon's experience in the camp during her visit to the Zaatri refugee camp, in Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • A Kurdish fighter from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) carries his son as he walks along a street, Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • A man walks near a crater as smoke rises from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • Civil defense members and civilians extinguish the fire from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014.
  • A civil defense worker puts out a fire after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • Children run across a street to avoid snipers in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria Feb. 16, 2014.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter rests with his weapon in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
  • A boy holds his baby sister, who survived what activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.
  • Rescuers walk on the rubble of collapsed buildings after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.

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by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
February 15, 2014 12:07 AM
There is no Arab nation on earth that their people are free, no. All those people are suppressed and harassed by their own Government. Even in Russia you people are suffering, every year Mr. Putin will win the election. what kind of mess is that? America didn't start any Arab spring, it started in Tunisia Because the Arab people were suppressed and they said enough is enough. So many time you people of Russia try to revolt against Mr. Putin, and he crashed your. The true of the matter, the Arab people dont like each other. So therefore they dont like anybody. Why you people envy and jealous of America? Your live your life and leave us alone. Why you want to come to our Country? Why do you people get up from your bed 1am to stand on line for American visa? stay in your country. The fact is America is the greatest Country in the world. God Bless America

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
February 14, 2014 10:53 PM
The people of Syria were suppressed by the Assad administration. Assad didn't treat his people right. Even before the war in Syria, Assad was brutal to his own people, that cause the people to fled Syria into exile. Syria is not Assad father farm or property. Let us be clear here, Syria is for the Syrian people.
There are lot of educated Syrian who are capable to run that country and even do better than that of Assad. And if Assad thinks Russia, Iran and including his defeated Army can face America, well sooner or later, he is about to find out.There is no nation on this earth right now as we speak that can defeat America. No Nation.
The world know Hizbollah rebels are fighting along side with Assad army, and still they cannot defeat the free Syrian Army. It is time for Assad to step down and leave.

by: Igor from: Russia
February 14, 2014 10:32 PM
Syrian people lived in peace an harmony for a long time. Then those western nations and some barbarous Arab ones have been instigating religion hatred and killings. And they have turned the beutiful country into a hell by supporting those terrorists to creat the so-called "Spring Revolution". Their purpose is nor democracy for Syria but to overthrow Syrian government and creat one that would be ready to obey their orders.

by: ali baba from: new york
February 14, 2014 8:29 PM
People in Syria were living peacefully for many years. then the rebel which are supporting by Arab rich country started a civil war which resulted for many tragedy . the western country want to end the conflict but they refuse to compromise and keep foreign fighter whom they do not have any business in Syria. they are not the Syrian citizen but they come to Syria to fight and slaughter innocent people especially Christian whom are the real victim of that war. they rape woman and they call it sexual jihad. the western nation has to top giving them arm .the United state stop giving them arm .and listen to their complaint about chemical weapons. the rebel has to leave the country but they enjoy destroying it.

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
February 14, 2014 7:55 PM
Bashar Assad is the key factor to the Syrian people problem. In as much Assad refuses to step,there will be no peace.Assad is a dictator, and it is time that he go. Russia is the key problem to the Syrian people conflict. Russia knows very well that Assad is the problem to the Syrian people, This mad man uses chemical weapon on his own people, and they are still supporting him. It is time that Russia do the right time. We are calling on the UN and the EU to put pressure on the Assad Administration The UN, the EU and America need to come together and make a decision, and do what is in the interest of the Syrian people. and to hell with RUssia.

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