GENEVA, February 10. /ITAR-TASS/. The Syrian government delegation will discuss the Geneva communiqué point by point, starting with terrorism, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said on Monday, February 10.
“Violence must be stopped first, and we should go step by step when discussing the Geneva communiqué, starting with terrorism,” he said.
Mekdad described as unconstructive the position assumed by the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which insists on starting the discussion with a transitional governing body.
“This issue is not on the agenda and never was,” Mekdad said when asked whether the fate of President Bashar al-Assad would be discussed in Geneva or not.
“The government is doing everything it can to avoid the main goal of the inter-Syrian talks, which is to comply with the Geneva communiqué and form a transitional government,” he said.
He said the government delegation had stated it was prepared to discuss only the problem of terrorism.
The Surya television channel quoted a source in the Syrian delegation as saying that at the morning round of talks in Geneva the opposition had turned down a document laying out key principles of settlement proposed by the government.
The government delegation had proposed a general platform that calls for preserving the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, rejects external interference and condemns support for terrorism.“The document emphasizes that Syrian people themselves will determine the future of their country democratically. This provision is supported by every citizen but was rejected by the opposition,” the source said.
The Syrian talks continued on January 27 with the two parties making “some general statements on the way forward.”
The first round of talks ended on January 31 with no serious breakthrough or “any real change in position” of either side, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, said.
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 honor victims of the civil war — “no matter which (side) they belong to,” he said.
“We haven’t noticed any major change, to be honest, in the two sides’ positions,” he said.
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 hopes that the next round of Syrian talks in Geneva would be more productive.
“I hope that we will try…to draw some lessons about what we did and see if we can organize ourselves better for the next session. I think that’s enough for a beginning,” Brahimi said.
He expressed hope that when the talks resume, “we will be able to have a more structured discussion.”
Wrapping up eight days of their previous meetings in Geneva, Brahimi said last week that he had suggested that the talks resume, on the basis of the agreed agenda, on February 10. He said that the opposition delegation had agreed to this date, while the government delegation said that it needed to consult with Damascus first.
Brahimi said that progress during the past few days of talks had been very slow, but the sides had engaged in an acceptable manner. He said that this was a modest beginning on which to build further progress.
He said that the sides were committed to discussing the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012. The envoy also noted some areas where the parties’ positions were converging and expressed his hope that they can start to build more common ground when they meet again next time.
Asked whether the government would return to the talks, the spokesperson said that Brahimi had said that the government delegation had informed him that they intended to return but needed to check with Damascus.
Asked about potential military intervention, U.N. Spokesperson Farhan Haq reiterated the Secretary-General’s consistent belief that there can be no military solution to the crisis.
The goal of the international conference on Syria is to achieve a political solution to the three-year-long conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the two sides for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on June 30, 2012, and since endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.
The communiqué 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.
“It’s very clear to both sides that the ‘meat’ of the conference is how to implement these positions in the Geneva communiqué,” Brahimi said.
The conference marks the first time the Syrian government and the opposition will meet for direct talks since the conflict began in March 2011. Hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Joint Envoy Brahimi, the conference took place in Switzerland in two parts, opening in Montreux on January 23, 2014, and continuing at the U.N. office in Geneva, on January 24. More than 30 nations had been invited to attend.