News / Middle East

Syria Envoy in Damascus, but Prospects for Peace Talks Dim

Reuters
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (R) and Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrive to a hotel surrounded by security, Oct. 28, 2013 in Damascus, Syria.U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (R) and Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrive to a hotel surrounded by security, Oct. 28, 2013 in Damascus, Syria.
x
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (R) and Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrive to a hotel surrounded by security, Oct. 28, 2013 in Damascus, Syria.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (R) and Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrive to a hotel surrounded by security, Oct. 28, 2013 in Damascus, Syria.
International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held talks in Damascus on Monday at the end of a Middle East tour to promote a Syrian peace conference, but regional tensions have cast a pall over his mission.
 
Brahimi visited capitals across the Middle East to discuss plans for the “Geneva 2” meeting, tentatively set for Nov. 23, to try to halt more than 2-1/2 years of bloodshed in Syria.
 
But opposition forces have not yet decided whether they will attend and Gulf Arab states backing the Syrian rebels have soured on the talks after Brahimi said on Saturday that their rival Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main regional ally, should join the international conference.
 
Brahimi met Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, in Damascus but there was no word on whether Assad would see him.
 
A senior Turkish official said the envoy has not pushed for any deal on his tour, remaining in “listening and watching mode” and leaving active negotiating to Moscow and Washington.
 
Riyadh and Tehran see the struggle in Syria as determining which of them ends up with greater influence in the Arab world.
 
Saudi Arabia threatened to distance itself from the United States last week over its perceived inaction on Syria and its renewed efforts at reconciliation with Iran.
 
The diplomatic wrangling has made the Syrian opposition feel weaker and even more reluctant to consider attending Geneva 2.
 
“All these issues are getting tangled up into the other. Like the Saudis, we are very afraid that the United States' other interests in Iran will come at the cost of the Syrian cause,” said Samir Nashar, an executive member of the Syrian National Coalition, the opposition's umbrella body abroad.
 
“If you ask me, this meeting won't happen on Nov. 23. It won't happen ever.”

Nasrallah says Saudis 'obstructing'
 
Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah urged the Syrian rebels, foreign fighters and their international backers to embrace a political solution and pursue dialog without preconditions.
 
“You knew what you wanted, you planned well, you used all available resources, and you failed,” Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech in which he singled out Saudi Arabia as an obstacle to a political solution.
 
“We can't keep the region ablaze because one country is angry or is acting differently,” he said, accusing the kingdom of seeking “to obstruct any political dialog and postpone Geneva 2.”
 
Syria's political opposition in exile is facing mounting pressure from fighters on the ground to reject any negotiations that would not require Assad's ouster.
 
Many of Syria's main rebel brigades on Saturday rejected any negotiations not based on Assad's removal and said they would charge anyone who attended them with treason.
 
Assad and Iran, however, have said they will only go to talks that set no preconditions.
 
It is not clear how the United States and Russia, co-sponsors of the talks, can reconcile the conflicting demands of the various parties to enable to conference to convene.
 
The United States, which backs the opposition, and Russia, a main arms supplier to Assad, agreed in May to try to arrange the Geneva 2 talks to build on an earlier meeting in the Swiss city last year that called for political transition in Syria, without defining what the Syrian president's role might be.
 
“The problem is what all the different sides think they're going to get out of Geneva. The opposition and the Gulf see the goal of it as removing Assad. Of course Assad, especially as he's in a position of power right now, won't accept that,” said Chris Phillips, a Middle East lecturer at University of London.
 
Phillips said the United States is now taking a “realist stance” on dealing with Assad, despite its Gulf allies' efforts to draw it into active military support for the rebels.
 
Violent stalemate
 
Arab League foreign ministers will meet on Sunday to discuss Syria, officials said. Driven mainly by Gulf countries, the Arab League suspended Syria's membership and has sought to put pressure on Assad for trying to crush the uprising against him.
 
A Gulf diplomatic source in Cairo expressed frustration that Brahimi had not taken a firmer line over the crisis.
 
“I had hoped that Brahimi would be bold and say there was no solution but for Assad to leave, because Assad's exit from power and his trial along with the pillars of his regime who killed more than 100,000 Syria, is the only solution to the Syrian crisis,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.
 
Some Saudi officials said last week they would now act independently of the United States to arm the rebels - another bad sign for talks that aim to end a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, forced millions from their homes and created refugee and security headaches for Syria's neighbors.
 
Assad's forces have been advancing slowly around the capital Damascus and in parts of central Syria, but overall the conflict remains a violent stalemate that costs at least 100 lives a day.
 
Despite his relative strength at the moment, Assad has said conditions are not conducive to peace talks, citing Saudi and U.S. support for “terrorists”, and arguing that the Syrian National Coalition represents foreign powers, not Syrians.
 
His opponents are fighting side-battles among themselves, with moderate Islamist groups battling al-Qaida-linked rebel groups in the north, much of which is under opposition control.
 
Further east, Kurdish militias have seized more territory to consolidate control of a region they want to run independently of both the mostly Sunni Muslim Arab rebels and Assad.
 
The opposition coalition says it can only attend talks if either the U.N. Security Council, or Washington and Moscow, state publicly that Assad would step down in any transition.
 
“That would be the encouraging sign we are looking for,” said a Syrian opposition source. “Otherwise, when the National Coalition has its planned meeting on Nov. 9, the vote on Geneva is going to be no.”

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid