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Second week of Geneva-2 begins without tangible progress at talks between Syrian sides

January 29, 2014, 3:37 UTC+3 GENEVA
On Tuesday, matters went to such lengths that the evening session of the consultations was cancelled
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Murhaf Jouejati, member of the Syrian opposition

Murhaf Jouejati, member of the Syrian opposition

© EPA/VALENTIN FLAURAUD

GENEVA, January 29. /ITAR-TASS/. The second week of the Geneva-2 international peace conference on Syria begins with a lack of progress in discussions on the future of Syria.

The forum, preparation for which had been under way since May last year, began on January 22 in the Swiss city of Montreux, after which representatives of the Syrian government and their opponents — the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCROF) — moved to Geneva where they managed to start talks with the mediation of Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN/LAS joint special representative for Syria. However, efforts to lend dynamism to the talks have been to no avail so far.

That the process is evolving as if along a "vicious circle" is patently evidenced by the daily reiteration of the same statements by both teams that emphasize only the diametrically opposite views of the Syrian government and the opposition.

Damascus delegates speak of their readiness to discuss "any subjects", except the future of the country's President Bashar Assad who, they say, even if he quits the scene, he will do that only after the Syrian people would make a decision on this score at elections.

Opposition delegates keep alluding to the Geneva Communiqué dated June 30, 2012 — the Geneva-1 document, which, NCROF believes, presupposes a departure of Assad and his entourage.

Sources close to the talks point out that Brahimi firmly seeks to secure that the sides explain thoroughly their visions of the Communiqué in order to lean if only on something and launch headway.

On January 28, the emissary of the international community said, it was the opposition that explained its views. However, the contents of the document handed over to the Algerian diplomat are not disclosed.

Way back on Monday, January 27, the Syrian government circulated a declaration on the basic settlement principles. The declaration points out the importance of commitment to "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and to the fight against terrorism". However, the opposition rejected the document, complaining that the official delegation sought to "drown negotiators in details, to entangle them with talk about terrorism" and evade a discussion of the main theme, that is, how, as opposition circles understand it, a discussion on a "transitional government".

On Tuesday, matters went to such lengths that the evening session of the consultations was cancelled. According to the opposition's version, that was done because government delegates were not prepared for talks "on the substance of the matter". Damascus representatives came forward with a different version of the change in the fixed timetable, namely, the US Congress decision on new deliveries of arms to opposition formations. There has been no official confirmation of the information on such a step by the American side so far.

The discussion of humanitarian themes looks no better either. The opposition keeps focusing attention on the disastrous humanitarian situation in the city of Homs where "for almost two years now" humanitarian aid has not been supplied.

Statements made by Brahimi several days ago to the effect that women and children would be able to leave the city and that a humanitarian convoy would bring aid supplies to the population caused a great stir in the world's media at that time.

Three days have passed but women and children still remain in Homs, which became an arena of fierce fighting while humanitarian supplies — food for 2,500 people, medical kits, child wear, and vaccines -- still lie at UN warehouses in Syria. Brahimi himself, it seems, has got tired of reiterating that the Homs issue is decided on the spot with UN coordination, not in Geneva.

It is significant that only one question, that about Homs, was put to Brahimi on Tuesday at the traditional press conference on the results of the day. A reply to it consisted of only two sentences, the essence of which was in the following: there was no permission for the convoy's entry into Homs and that "we did not retreat" in the face of the difficulties.

The theme of lists of imprisoned and kidnapped people was completely absent from Tuesday's open discussion. The day before, both delegations intended to exchange such lists.

The main thing now is to secure that the sides do not give up the idea of the Geneva-2 proper. However, the possibility of the situation's developing according to such a scenario is denied at present.

Representatives of the delegations of both the government and the opposition say they are prepared to carry on the talks.

"The two sides intend to stay and continue these discussions until Friday, January 31, as originally planned. Therefore, nobody is walking out.  Nobody is running away" Brahimi stressed.

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