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Russia against blaming one side for lack of progress in Syria talks

February 17, 2014, 21:08 UTC+3 MOSCOW

"It was a difficult dialogue," Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in its statement

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MOSCOW, February 17. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia urged the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, not blame one side for the lack of progress in the Syria talks.

Commenting on the second round of the Geneva talks that ended on Saturday, February 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: “It was a difficult dialogue, given the serious difference in the approaches assumed by the Syrian authorities and opposition with regard to a political-diplomatic settlement in Syria and priorities in solving existing problems,” the ministry said on Monday, February 17.

“At the final plenary meeting, Special Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi suggested agreeing the draft agenda based on the key issues contained in the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012,” the ministry’s statement said.

The delegation of the Syrian government supported in principle the special envoy’s proposals and reaffirmed its readiness to continue working on this basis and to come for the third round of talks when its date was set. Priority was given to the fight against terrorism.

Russia notes “the positive commitment of the government delegation to active participation in the negotiations,” the ministry said. Moscow believes that “the focus on joint anti-terrorism efforts of the Syrian sides is necessitated by the fact that the country attracts more and more jihadists and Islamic radicals of all sorts who use the struggle against the legitimate government of Syria for achieving their own ideological goals.”

“Increased terrorist activity poses a threat to security and stability not only in Syria but in the region as a whole,” the statement said. “With this in mind, the G8 leaders in Lough Erne in June 2013 stated in their official communiqué the need for all Syrians to pool their efforts in the fight against terrorists in order to drive them out of the country,” the ministry said.

“We are convinced that active and systemic work to build trust between the authorities and the opposition is necessary in order to make the inter-Syrian dialogue more sustainable. This is a challenging task, given the drawn-out and bloody nature of confrontation in Syria,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday, February 17.

“Much in this situation depends on the activity of Lakhdar Brahimi, who as an international mediator has been mandated to pursue an impartial and objective policy by encouraging the opponents to look for common denominators, conduct the dialogue and continue the talks,” the ministry said. “In doing so, the special representative should not drift towards unilateral accusations or lay all the blame for lack of progress in the dialogue on any one side,” it added.


“No alternative to diplomatic solution”

Russia “continues to believe that there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic settlement of the crisis in Syria,” the ministry said. “We believe that only the Syrians themselves can reach agreement on the future state system of the Syrian Arab Republic on the basis of mutual consensus and in strict compliance with the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012,” the statement said.

“We urge the parties to the inter-Syrian talks to continue the efforts aimed at finding ways to advance the peace process, while taking into account each other’s interests and showing readiness to make compromises when making decisions,” the ministry said. “It would be instrumental if the parties agreed general principles that would reaffirm the sovereignty of Syria, its territorial integrity and guarantees for the rights and security of all ethnic and religious groups.”


Geneva II talks to be continued

The second round of inter-Syrian talks ended officially in Geneva on February 15, and the parties are set to continue their discussions, but the date of the next round is yet to be determined.

Brahimi said the agenda of the next round had been agreed and consisted of four points: violence and terrorism, a transitional governing body, national institutions, national reconciliation, and a national dialogue.

He said the last session of the second round was “as laborious as all the meetings we have had, but we agreed on an agenda for the next round when it does take place.”

Brahimi admitted that “these two rounds have not come out with very much.”

The envoy said the government and opposition delegations had agreed with the proposed agenda, but the government negotiators had not yet approved the manner in which the discussion would be conducted.

The government delegation pledged to continue the talks at the Geneva II international conference until results were achieved, Syrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari said.

“We are set to achieve a result, and we will press for a constructive dialogue. We will be back to Geneva,” he said.


Commitment to Geneva Communiqué

The diplomat stressed, however, that Israel and the sponsors of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces were trying to undermine the process and were not showing good will.

However, National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi reaffirmed his delegation’s intention to continue the talks and commitment to the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012.

He urged Russia to put pressure on the Syrian government, which in his opinion was not demonstrating a serious approach and was instead delaying the discussion on the fight against terrorism for its own purposes.

Safi expressed hope that the government delegation would return to the next round in a more constructive mood.

“The violence must be stopped first, and we should go step by step when discussing the Geneva Communiqué, starting with terrorism,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said earlier this week.

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.

The goal of the international conference on Syria known as Geneva II 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.

The conference marks the first time the Syrian government and the opposition meet for direct talks since the conflict began in March 2011. Hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Joint Envoy Brahimi, the conference’s first round 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.

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