News / Middle East

    UN Envoy Struggling to Get Syria Talks On Track

    UN Envoy Struggles to Get Syria Talks on Tracki
    X
    Luis Ramirez
    February 01, 2016 6:13 PM
    U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura is struggling to get Syrian peace talks on track in Geneva, where Syrian government and opposition representatives are present but not yet fully involved in indirect negotiations. Discussions on Monday between the U.N. envoy and the Syrian government delegation were postponed, because the opposition insists on an end to airstrikes and siege conditions in rebel-held areas before it negotiates. VOA Europe Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
    Luis Ramirez

    U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura struggled Monday to keep peace talks on track in Geneva, as the Syrian government — with Russia's help — launched a major offensive against rebel forces.

    U.N. officials said talks that had been scheduled between the U.N. envoy and the Syrian government delegation for Monday were postponed to Tuesday.

    Instead, de Mistura met with the opposition for two hours before declaring the talks officially open.

    A spokesman for the main opposition group said earlier Monday he had received a "positive response" from de Mistura on opposition demands to halt airstrikes and allow the flow of humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas. An opposition representative described Monday's talks as positive, as well.

    But opposition delegates also said escalating violence could hinder the already fragile process.

    U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, discussed the Syria talks with VOA on Monday, saying he thinks they are starting off in a difficult place.

    "I think the opposition that, you know, we communicated some with last week has been put in a very awkward place. The humanitarian things that they had asked for have not occurred."

    WATCH: Sen. Bob Corker discusses Syria talks with VOA

    US Senator Bob Corker Talks to VOA About Syria Talksi
    X
    February 01, 2016 6:49 PM
    U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R - Tennessee), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, discussed the Syria talks with VOA's Michael Bowman on Monday, saying he thinks they are starting off in a difficult place.

    He added, "I certainly support diplomatic talks as I think everyone would, but the elements at present do not feel that they are in a proper place.”

    Russian support
     
    Syrian forces, with Russia’s help, have stepped up attacks and launched an offensive Monday north of the city of Aleppo.
     
    The opposition says the government airstrikes are killing civilians and they renewed their threats to leave the talks if the Syrian government does not take steps to show good will.

    “You cannot ask the Syrian opposition to engage in any negotiation with the regime under this escalation,” Farah Atassi, a member of the opposition, said in Geneva.

    Syrian ambassador to the UN and head of the government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari gestures as he holds a press conference during the Syria peace talks in Geneva, Jan. 31, 2016.
    Syrian ambassador to the UN and head of the government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari gestures as he holds a press conference during the Syria peace talks in Geneva, Jan. 31, 2016.

    Opposition boycott

    The group boycotted the first day of talks Friday and the only consultations held that day were between the U.N. envoy and the Syrian government delegation. Opposition representatives arrived in Geneva late Saturday after getting assurances from the U.N. and international supporters of the peace process that their demands would be addressed.

    A member of the opposition delegation said those assurances had come from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

    In a video statement Sunday, Kerry urged all sides to press on to end to the conflict that has killed 250,000 people, and which he described as "an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe unmatched since World War II."

    "I appeal to both sides to make the most of this moment, to seize the opportunity for serious negotiations, to negotiate in good faith with the goal of making concrete measurable progress in the days immediately ahead,'' Kerry said. 

     

    Proposal under consideration

    Opposition representatives said they did not know how long they will remain in Geneva. Diplomatic sources say the opposition has been considering a proposal from de Mistura that could lead to their staying and participating in indirect negotiations with the Syrian government.

    The U.N. envoy's meeting with the opposition Monday and his plan to consult with the Syrian government delegation Tuesday indicated he was making some progress, although difficult and slow, toward establishing an indirect exchange.

    Senate correspondent Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 01, 2016 10:02 PM
    It was only a few days ago we heard about all this optimism. How ridiculous that sounded then. The real problem is that the Russians and Syrian army continue to attack the legitimate "moderate" rebels and are not focused on IS. Russia's game, the only choice will be between Assad and IS. Hardly matters. The negotiations will go nowhere and it's only a matter of time. Assad's fate is sealed.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 02, 2016 5:54 PM
    meanbill, it hardly matters what the US wants or doesn't want. Shia and Sunni are locked in a battle that goes back far before Columbus discovered America. Reality is that the Shia will be defeated and eventually Iran will fall. There are enough fanatical Sunnis in the world that their war will never end until they're satisfied the Shia are reduced to insignificance. Personally I don't care one way or the other. Both sides are bad guys IMO.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 01, 2016 11:25 PM
    Hey Marcos _ The US just wants a Russian and Syrian army bombing ceasefire to stop the Syrian army blitzkrieg advance against the terrorist groups that the US and their allies support, and the US wants the Syrian army to withdraw from key cities and towns so they can rearm, resupply and reposition the terrorist groups the US and their allies support, so the terrorists can continue to wage war on the Shia Muslim led government of Assad and Syria, and replace it with some unelected unknown unidentified Sunni Muslim president and government?

    The US demand for a Russian and Syrian army bombing ceasefire for humanitarian reasons is a ploy to stop the Russian backed Syrian army blitzkrieg advance against the terrorists that the US and their allies support, and nothing else? .. IF it was for humanitarian reasons, the US would have requested the UN remove the civilians from all the combat areas 5 years ago when the terrorists had the upper hand, [and remember], the US has never proposed a bombing ceasefire on their own (for humanitarian reasons) to treat or remove any of the civilians in the combat zones, have they? .. SO? .. This isn't any start in US and their allies peace talks, [no], these are still the US and their allies demands? .. nothing else?

    by: Kafantaris
    February 01, 2016 12:58 PM
    The mess in Syria is a pile of wasted opportunities. Peace will come when all sides realize this -- one way or another.

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