UN blames Damascus for ‘golden opportunity missed’ at Syria peace talks
Staffan de Mistura told reporters that “we did not have real negotiations, blaming in particular the government delegation’s apparent lack of interest in discussing anything besides the fight against “terrorism.”
His statement came at the end of the eighth round of indirect talks in Geneva between delegations representing Damascus and the opposition in Syria’s brutal, nearly seven-year war.
Seven previous rounds of talks mediated by De Mistura have also gone nowhere - and the rival sides have not yet met face-to-face.
The U.N. mediator, who has described himself as a “chronic optimist” and highlights incremental progress where others see stalemate, had voiced hope that the eighth round that opened on Nov. 28, would mark the first “real negotiation. “
But as the round fizzled out on Dec. 14, he acknowledged he was “disappointed.”
“In spite of lots of efforts of my whole team, we did not have real negotiations,” he told reporters.
“We are not going to give up,” he said, stressing the need to find a political solution to the conflict that has killed more than 340,000 people since March 2011.
Talks this month have snagged on the issue of President Bashar al-Assad’s future, with the opposition delegation defying calls to give up its demand that the president must go as part of any peace deal.
The Syrian government’s top negotiator, Bashar al-Jaafari, slammed the opposition for “placing preconditions for the Geneva talks”, and flatly rejected their call for direct negotiations until they dropped the demand.
A parallel process organized by Russia, Iran and Turkey is set to resume next week in Astana, Kazakhstan.
De Mistura said he planned to attend that meeting.
The Kremlin also hopes to convene a political congress in the Black Sea resort of Sochi which would bring together regime officials and the opposition to reinvigorate a hobbled peace process.