News / Middle East

    Syrian Talks Begin in Geneva

    Syrian Delegations to Meet for First Timei
    X
    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 Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.