'Missed opportunity': Syria talks round concludes with no real negotiations

#SyriaWar

Government and opposition representatives exchange blame for failure of talks in Geneva

UN mediator Staffan de Mistura says he is looking for new ideas to revive peace talks (AFP)
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Friday 15 December 2017 12:33 UTC
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A round of Syria peace talks that ended on Thursday was a missed opportunity, but there may be more talks next month if ideas can be found to encourage President Bashar al-Assad's government to engage, UN mediator Staffan de Mistura said.

He said neither side had actually "sabotaged" the latest talks by refusing to attend, but he laid most of the blame for the failure of the round at the feet of the government side.

De Mistura voiced milder disappointment with Syrian opposition officials, after they arrived in Geneva ruling out any future role for Assad. But he said that a tough public stance had been tempered by a mature position in the closed-door discussions.

"The goal we had was to bring about real negotiations," de Mistura told a news conference. "Let me be frank, we did not achieve these negotiations. In other words, negotiations in reality did not take place.

"I would conclude by saying (it was) 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," he added.

De Mistura said he was leaving Geneva for consultations in New York with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, followed by a meeting with the UN Security Council next Tuesday.

"I will probably need to come up with new ideas, parameters, about how to move the talks forward, particularly on constitution and elections," he said.

Chief opposition negotiator Nasr Hariri said the international community needs to do more to persuade government negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari to come to the table, warning that the talks are in "great danger".

One European diplomat said the talks had been a "charade" because of the government's behaviour.

“Although the regime has presented itself here, that is all that it has done. I would go further: it’s not just a kind of disengagement that they’ve shown, it’s an extraordinary contempt," he said.

As he left the talks, Jaafari accused the opposition, backed by Western countries and Saudi Arabia, of sabotaging the round.

Jaafari said Damascus did not want the talks to fail but the opposition had put down a precondition last month by concluding a conference known as "Riyadh 2" with a declaration that Assad had no role in Syria's political transition.