News / Middle East

Syrian Talks Begin in Geneva

Syrian Delegations to Meet for First Timei
January 24, 2014 9:34 PM
Representatives of the Syrian government and opposition are to meet face-to-face for the first time Saturday in Geneva, after days of mutual threats to withdraw from the talks. VOA's Al Pessin reports.
Representatives of the Syrian government and opposition are meeting face-to-face for the first time Saturday in Geneva, after days of mutual threats to withdraw from the talks.
Al Pessin
Representatives from the Syrian government and the Western-backed opposition have begun their first-ever joint meeting aimed at resolving nearly three years of civil war.

The United Nations confirmed Saturday that both sides sat down "in the same room" with the Joint Special Representative in the U.N. office in Geneva.

Syria's government had threatened to walk out of peace talks with the opposition if the two sides did not begin what it called "serious sessions" by Saturday. The opposition has said it will not negotiate directly with the Syrian government unless it agrees to discuss the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.

Damascus has refused, accusing the rebels of supporting terrorism.
The United Nations and Arab League mediator, veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi made the announcement Friday that talks would begin after two days of meeting separately with the two sides.

Brahimi went so far as to describe his talks with the government and opposition delegations as “encouraging.”
That was surprising at the end of a day during which the Syrian foreign minister threatened to leave if serious talks did not start by Saturday, and the opposition threatened not to hold direct talks unless the government accepted what is called the Geneva 1 communique, which is supposed to be the basis for these talks.
That document, negotiated by the international community 18 months ago, calls for the establishment of a transitional government in Syria.

The Geneva II Talks

  • Delegates gather in Montreux, Switzerland on Jan. 22
  • Talks move to Geneva on Jan. 24 and will be facilitated by Lakhdar Brahimi
  • Syrian government delegation is led by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
  • Opposition delegation is led by Syrian National Coalition leader Ahmad al-Jarba

The opposition and its allies, including the United States and other western powers, say that means Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave office. He and his allies, including Russia and Iran, disagree.
Brahimi acknowledged what he called the differences of interpretation but said both sides accept that this process is based on the communique.
He said they will also likely discuss other issues, including improved access for humanitarian aid. But he said the focus will be on getting a broader settlement to the nearly three-year-long war.
“The huge ambition of this process is to save Syria, no less than that," he said. "So I hope that all three parties – the government, the opposition and the United Nations – will be up to the task.”

Brahimi also called on the two sides' backers in the international community to “do their share” to support the negotiations.
He said he expects the talks to continue through next week, and then to break for the delegations to consult with their leadership.

Analysts have predicted difficulties in the talks, particularly after the acrimonious start to this process on Wednesday, when the Syrian foreign minister and opposition leader made combative statements at an international conference in nearby Montreux.

The acrimony is making it difficult to do what U.S., Russian and U.N. officials want the negotiators to do - start to build trust by talking about local cease-fires, prisoner exchanges and the opening of humanitarian aid corridors.

But that seemed a remote prospect after Friday's rocky start to the day's talks, leaving no new hope for an end to nearly three years of bloodshed or for help for some nine million Syrians who the U.N. says are in dire need of help.

“Both Syrian sides have got very different objectives going into it, said Syria expert David Butter of London's Chatham House, who sees little prospect for significant progress during this round of talks.

"And also, it's in a context where you can't really see either party to the internal conflict actually having any sort of decisive advantage, which would be the basis of some sort of bargaining process,” he added.

Still, there is hope that if they can get past the posturing of recent days. the two sides will find it in their interests to at least start a process here.

And diplomats indicate that their key supporters - the United States and Russia - will be keeping the pressure on to do just that.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
January 25, 2014 6:15 AM
I cannot understand why there is so much pressure on Asad to step down and no pressure on Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and so many puppet Govt of ME. When peoples are satisfy with Asad & Co, so why West and ME is interfering in Syrian affairs. They have created problems for poor Syrian peoples by sponsoring TERRORIST group. This is their habit to support terrorisum with the help of world fame terrorist group for their financial and military help.
In Response

by: Dawla from: India
January 25, 2014 8:49 PM
you are so right Mustafa, and remember that Assad never attacked Israel. I know, he would have been decapitated if he did attack them, but the fact is that he didn't. i think that the reason the Americans do not like him is the Iranian Hezbullah. Assad allowed the Iranians to kill so many of his own citizens in a deliberate attempt to kill as many Sunnis in the ME as they can. and that doesn't sit well with the Saudi/US/Israel. don't forget, Iran has been killing thousands of Sunna in Iran... Thousands of "executions" every week...

by: Dr. Q. L. Dirtybottom from: D.C.
January 24, 2014 9:08 PM
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s delusions continued as he arrived in Montreux, Switzerland to open the “Geneva II” talks on the ongoing conflict in Syria. Having successfully bullied UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon into rescinding the invitation previously extended to Iran to attend, Kerry proceeded to bully and blunder his way through the pre-opening of the conference.
Just weeks ago, however, a study conducted by a team of experts from MIT concluded that due to the primitive design of the chemical munition rockets, it would have been physically impossible for them to have been fired from Syrian government-held territory as the US government had claimed. How long before we hear the same conclusion over this latest Qatari-funded “discovery”? Which is not to say that there has not been brutality committed by both sides, we should not forget.
One need not endorse the current Syrian government to appreciate Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem’s retort to John Kerry’s arrogant claim to decide who should or should not govern Syria:
No one, Mr. Kerry, in the world has the right to give legitimacy or to withdraw legitimacy from a president, a government, a constitution or a law or anything in Syria, except Syrians.
Indeed. And so it begins, Geneva II. Start making plans or III, IV, and so on, because this conference is a farce.

by: kafantaris from: Warren, Ohio
January 24, 2014 5:15 PM
The Rebels and the Syrian government have two things in common: They both want the jihadists out; and they both love Syria.
Surely they can find more common ground when they meet on Saturday.

by: Melisa from: UK
January 24, 2014 1:19 PM
Arab League...LOL... I begin to believe that this Arab League of scumbags who hate each other with such intensity, promote the cause of the Arab Philistines not to advance the welfare of these wretched Arab Philistines degenerates, but to hurt Israel. Look, everywhere in the Arab world you find Philistines they are complaining of abuse rape sodomy and mutilations... except Israel, where they live in safety and dignity... but they are still Arabs... who want to destroy Israel... yeah, I know, its ironic and moronic but so Arab...

by: USA Lawyer from: USA
January 24, 2014 11:32 AM
Three factors have come together to create what we see in Syria.

First: Syria has lots of oil and they are a socialist country who does not follow the American communist oil rules of price manipulation. Syria distributes the wealth from their oil to their people.

Second: Because Syria has so much oil they have never needed IMF "assistance." Syria was not under their debt like over 90% of the world. This meant that the global bankers had no control of Syria. On another note: Syria IS a Muslim country. To a true Muslim and Christian, charging interest on a loan is considered USURY. In Syria, the "socialist" banks do not charge the incredible 20-30% interest rates that American and IMF control.ed countries VISA, Mastercard, and American Express banks charge.

Third: The anti-Christ... No kidding. The ANTI-Christ. A country dedicated to discriminating against all those who believe in Christ has financed and supplied weapons for the "Al-Quada" terrorists attacking Assad.

The Amazing thing is... America is paying attention to Justin Bieber...

by: ariely shein from: jerusalem
January 24, 2014 11:24 AM
The solution to the Balkan conflicts is valid in the ME as well. Separate states for the ME minorities. Don’t continue to support the current artificial states of Iraq-Syria-Lebanon-Libya. Independent states for Kurds- Allay- Maron-Sunni-Shia-Benghazi-Tripoli.
The ME crisis is a follow up of WW1. The root cause of the many conflicts is the creation of artificial states by the European colonial power naming Iraq-Syria-Lebanon and Libya.

The west colonial powers than and the world powers today didnt take in considerations the many rival ME groups with different religion, culture, tradition.
Example of the European arrogance that didn’t consider ME leaders warning ahead of creation of the artificial states:

French foreign minister,Fabius,quoted the later in 2013 at UN Security Council the letter of Asad grandfather available in French government archives!

Asad grandfather Predicts Muslim Slaughter of minorities, praises Zionists. He asked European not to create artificial states in ME including different
ethnic,tribal,religious and groups that are antagonistic to each other. Sentences from the document:

*"" The spirit of fanaticism and narrow-mindedness, whose roots are deep in the heart of the Arab Muslims toward all those who are not Muslim, is
the spirit that continually feeds the Islamic religion""
*"" A black future awaits minorities""

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs