In Geneva, Syrian peace talks are on the verge of collapse before they begin. The talks are aimed at stopping a conflict that has killed more than 130,000 people and created almost 2.5 million refugees.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem was quoted by state television on Friday as telling international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi that if no serious work sessions were held by Saturday, the government delegation would leave.
Brahimi had planned to bring the government and opposition delegations together for a face-to-face meeting but the opposition has refused to meet the Syrian government delegation unless it first agrees to endorse the so-called Geneva I protocol calling for a transitional governing body to be established.
Direct talks were scrapped on Friday, so the two sides could meet the UN mediator in different rooms at different times.
Badr Jamous, the Syrian National Coalition Secretary-General said: “The negotiations will be indirect until the regime signs Geneva I. We came to implement the Geneva I agreement and if the regime will not abide by Geneva I then direct contact will not be beneficial.”
Brahimi wants to start with practical steps, like local ceasefires, prisoner releases and access for international aid deliveries before progressing to tougher political negotiations.
But even those small steps would fail if the delegations go home.