The eighth round of Syrian peace talks have ended on a sour note with the United Nations mediator describing them as a “missed opportunity.”
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura did not hide his frustration and disappointment in the fact that real negotiations, as he called them, did not take place. He said great efforts were made to hear multiple voices and opinions — those of the government and the opposition and of Civil Society. Unfortunately, he said these many consultations did not end up in negotiations.
“I would conclude by saying, if you did ask me, a big missed opportunity, a golden opportunity at the end of this year, when in fact there is a clear indication by many sides that the military operations are coming to a close,” de Mistura said. “But, we are not going to give up. The Syrian people, especially in this moment when they are expecting that once the conflict is over, there should be a political process and not preconditions.”
Indeed, de Mistura indicated that preconditions, especially on the government side, were what scuppered these talks. He said the government delegation refused to discuss any issue other than that of terrorism and counterterrorism measures.
He said they also objected to the opposition’s refusal to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to play a role in a transitional government. Though the opposition eventually stopped talking about this, he said the government still refused to meet with them.
De Mistura said he would go to New York over the weekend to confer with the secretary-general and U.N. Security Council so as to know how to proceed. For now, he said he was planning to convene another round of peace talks in January.
As Syria's nearly seven-year-long brutal war appears to be winding down, de Mistura noted that winning the war was not enough. He warned without good-faith political talks, Syria risked losing the peace.