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The Geneva peace talks on Syria drew to a close on Saturday with little evidence of progress.
One of very few agreements made at the talks was to organise a third round of talks. However no date has yet been set.
UN international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi apologised to the Syrian people for the meagre developments.
“The little that has been achieved in Homs, gave them even more hope that maybe this is the beginning of the coming out of this horrible crisis they are in. I apologise to them that on these two rounds we have not helped them very much.”
It soon became clear that the subject of a change of leadership in Syria had not even been broached, leading the British and French governments to blame Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for the impasse.
A gaping rift remains between both sides, with each claiming the other refused to agree to adopt a proposed draft agenda.
Louay Safi, delegate for the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said the government delegation was only interested in discussions on “ending violence and combatting terrorism.” He said the regime was not happy to discuss the section in the draft agenda about the Transitional Governing Body, which would not include al-Assad.
However, government delegate Bashar al-Jaafari refuted claims that his side was unwilling to accept the draft.
“We spent six days talking about the necessity to adopt a draft agenda… We immediately accepted the draft agenda while the other side did not.”
He went on to call the opposition delegation, made up largely of National Coalition umbrella group, “amateurs”, who feed the public and their international backers stories which are “not accurate”, “not true” and “misleading”.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government has now reportedly added opposition delegates to a terrorist list and seized their assets under a 2012 anti-terrorism law; a decision likely to further antagonise allies of the SNC.
President Bashar al-Assad’s representatives say the decision was made two months prior to the start of the peace talks, with Al-Jaafari saying “whoever refuses to fight terrorism is part of terrorism”.
However, the affected parties say they only learnt of it this week, when a leaked copy of the Justice Ministry decision was published on an opposition website.
Progress towards a political solution
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague blamed the Syrian government directly for the breakdown in peace talks. However, he said he did want the process to continue.
“This cannot be the end of the road”, he said. “With the war in Syria causing more death and destruction every day, we owe it to the people of Syria to do all we can to make progress towards a political solution.”
A ceasefire in the besieged city of Homs has enabled more than 1,300 people to be evacuated, while UN agencies and partner organisations have delivered aid to those remaining.
But, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stressed that the Homs evacuation has not improved access to other civil war zones in Syria, where up to three million people are reportedly in need of humanitarian aid.
Figures from the British-based, pro-opposition Observatory monitoring group suggest around 6,000 Syrians have been killed since the start of the latest peace talks on January 22. This is the fastest death rate recorded since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011.