Planned Syria talks for Jan 25 cannot yet be confirmed, says French FM

Planned Syria talks for Jan 25 cannot yet be confirmed, says French FM

ABU DHABI - Reuters
Planned Syria talks for Jan 25 cannot yet be confirmed, says French FM

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gives a speech during the 9th edition of the World Future Energy Summit on January 18, 2016 in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. / AFP / KARIM SAHIB

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Jan. 18 that it was not yet possible to confirm that a planned U.N.-organized Jan. 25 peace meeting on Syria would take place involving the Syrian government and opposition, saying that it was up to the United Nations to confirm it. 

“Obviously we hope the negotiations will take place but there are some questions which have to be answered,” Fabius told reporters during a visit to Abu Dhabi. 

This included confidence-building measures such as a halt to the sieges of Syrian cities and bombing of civilians, he said. 

“It would be very difficult for the moderate opposition to participate in the negotiations in the very moment when they are bombed,” he said. 

The Syrian opposition council established last month to oversee the negotiations is expected to take its position on the Jan. 25 meeting during a meeting in Riyadh this week, opposition officials said. 

George Sabra, a member of the body formed to oversee negotiations, said the Jan. 25 date for the Geneva talk was not a practical one. “I think a decision should be made in the next three days,” he told Reuters. 

Asked about the biggest obstacles to negotiations, he said: “Shelling people in cities and shelling by Russian and [Syrian] regime air forces. And a big problem is the sieges - people are dying.” 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Jan. 20 in Zurich for talks on Syria and Ukraine. 

A second opposition official also said he doubted talks would go ahead on Jan. 25. 

“We are aiming for negotiations that would be successful. We don’t want negotiations like 2014,” he said, referring to two rounds of talks in Geneva two years ago which broke down. He declined to be identified because he is not a spokesman for the opposition.