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Brahimi hopes next round of Syrian talks will be more productive

January 31, 2014, 3:20 UTC+3 GENEVA
He expressed hope that when the talks resume, presumably in February, “we will be able to have a more structured discussion”
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© AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

GENEVA, January 31, 2:44 /ITAR-TASS/. The Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, hopes that the next round of Syrian talks in Geneva will be more productive.

“I hope that we will try…to draw some lessons about what we did and see if we can organise ourselves better for the next session. I think that’s enough for a beginning,” Brahimi said on Thursday, January 30.

He expressed hope that when the talks resume, presumably in February, “we will be able to have a more structured discussion.”

After a “tense but rather promising” meeting between the Syrian government and opposition negotiators on January 30, Brahimi said that the first round of talks would end on January 31 with no serious breakthrough or “any real change in position” of either side.

The two sides agreed that “terrorism does exist in Syria and that is a very serious problem,” but no agreement was reached on how to deal with it. However, the delegations agreed to hold a moment of silence to honour victims of the civil war - “no matter which [side] they belong to,” Brahimi said.

“We haven’t noticed any major change, to be honest, in the two sides’ positions,” he said, adding he was deeply disappointed that there was no movement on allowing U.N. aid convoy into Homs, and on allowing civilians to leave the besieged city, cut off from supplies.

“I am …very, very disappointed, because the situation in Homs is bad and has been bad for months, years even. That is the first place very bad fighting and destruction has taken place,” he said.

Brahimi said earlier this week he had expected no results from the first round of the Syrian talks.

He spoke of “quite large” gaps in the positions of the sides and said he did not “expect that we will achieve anything substantive.”

“I am very happy that we are still talking, but the ice is breaking slowly, but it is breaking,” Brahimi said.

He expressed confidence that Russia and the United States would exert more influence on both sides.

Russian and American experts agreed at their meeting in Geneva on January 29 to put pressure on the Syrian sides to prod them into reaching a compromise, an informed diplomatic source told ITAR-TASS.

“The participants agreed to put pressure on the Syrian sides to make them move towards a compromise,” the source said. “Discussed were political and humanitarian issues as well as questions concerning the second round of inter-Syrian talks to begin after January 31.”

“When the Syrian delegations go to the consultations, they should have a homework assignment so that eventually they could achieve an agreement. A possible agenda of the second round was discussed at the meeting of the experts,” the source said.

An official in the Russian delegation told ITAR-TASS earlier that the meeting was aimed at holding “a detailed discussion on how to resolve the crisis in Syria.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed Syria in a telephone conversation on January 29.

“The minister and the secretary exchanged views on the situation in Syria in the context of direct ongoing negotiations in Geneva between the parties to the Syrian conflict and some other issues on the joint agenda,” the Foreign Ministry said.

It said Russia and the U.S. had agreed to keep helping the Syrian sides continue the talks. “The sides noted that the vigorous and coordinated efforts of Russia and the United States had helped convene the international conference on Syria in Montreux on January 22 and launch negotiations between the Syrian sides with the mediation of Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi,” the ministry said after a meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.

The ministry said “this signifies the growing understanding in the world that there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria.”

“The Russian side stressed that the delegations of the Syrian government and opposition should continue the dialogue and initially work out a common vision for the future of their country. The reiteration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, consolidation of efforts of all Syrians against terrorism, and guarantees of rights and security for all ethnic and religious groups should be its central elements,” the ministry said.

Gatilov and Sherman agreed to maintain constant contact and help the Syrian sides continue their talks.

Since the conflict erupted in March 2011 between the government and various groups seeking to remove President Bashar al-Assad from office, more than 100,000 people have been killed and nearly 9 million others driven from their homes. More than 9.3 million people within the country need humanitarian aid, the U.N. has said, with over 2.5 million of them living in areas where access is seriously constrained or non-existent.

The goal of the talks, under way in Switzerland since January 24, is to achieve a political solution to the Syrian conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the two sides for the full implementation of the Geneva communique, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on June 30, 2012, and since endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

The communique lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among others, it calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.

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