December 22, 2014
Face-to-face Syrian talks stall once more
Face-to-face talks between Syria's warring parties stalled over easing the humanitarian crisis, opposition delegates said, deepening doubts over tougher political negotiations which are due to follow.
Government and opposition delegations discussed aid and prisoner releases during a morning session in Geneva which had aimed to build some kind of trust between the sides who are implacably at odds over the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.
However, they disputed even the basic facts, and the opposition delegate told Reuters that international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met the two parties separately later in the day. These sessions would prepare for the more contentious political talks tomorrow on the 2012 "Geneva 1" accord, the delegate, Ahmad Ramadan, told Reuters.
Geneva 1 called for the establishment of a transitional governing body in Syria by mutual consent. The opposition says that means Assad must go, a demand the government has dismissed out of hand, adding to pessimism over whether the Geneva talks can make much progress on ending the civil war.
Following the first face-to-face talk, Ramadan said the government side had yet to respond to opposition demands to release thousands of prisoners taken during almost three years of conflict and to allow humanitarian aid into the city of Homs.
"It has been decided that there will be two preparatory separate sessions in the afternoon for Geneva 1 talks tomorrow," he said. "These sessions will be about political negotiations and about the agenda of implementing Geneva 1 with all its articles so that we can start talks tomorrow."
Another opposition delegate confirmed Ramadan's comments.
Russia, one of the talks' sponsors, had said any agreement on easing the humanitarian crisis would help to improve the atmosphere in Geneva, but acknowledged that positions were polarised, emotions were on edge and the situation remained extremely grave.