Syria 'failure' looms, mediator seeks help
Geneva, February 14, 2014
Warning that "failure" was staring him in the face, the Syria peace talks mediator said that the US and Russia had promised renewed support to keep their rival Syrian allies talking.
UN diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi met senior diplomats from Washington and Moscow in Geneva, hoping the co-sponsors of the three-week-old negotiating process could bury their own deep differences over Syria and prevail respectively on the opposition and government to move ahead and compromise.
"They have kindly reaffirmed their support for what we are trying to do and promised that they will help both here and in their capitals and elsewhere to unblock the situation for us, because until now we are not making much progress in this process," Brahimi told a news conference.
Asked after his two-hour meeting with US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov whether the whole process had failed, he said:
"Failure is always staring at us in the face.
"As far as the United Nations is concerned we will certainly not leave one stone unturned if there is a possibility to move forward. If there isn't, we will say so."
A US official said: "The hard work of this diplomacy continues and the United States will continue to support this work." Russian officials were not immediately available.
However, a senior member of Syria's main opposition group quoted Sherman as saying that the talks with Brahimi and Gatilov had not gone well. "She just told us about the meeting with the Russians and Brahimi and it was not successful," Badr Jamous, secretary general of the National Coalition, told reporters after meeting Sherman. He did not elaborate.
A new standoff between Russia and the West in the Security Council, over resolutions on aid for Syria, has contributed to the deadlock in Geneva, while continuing fighting has left tens of thousands under siege and hoping for relief from abroad.
Russia said it had presented a draft UN resolution on fighting "terrorism" in Syria and its own plan for improving aid access, throwing down a challenge to Western states in the Council which proposed another formulation that Moscow says would open the way for Western military intervention.
In Geneva, where the second round of peace talks has made little progress since Monday, Western diplomats and the Syrian opposition delegates have complained that President Bashar al-Assad's government was refusing to discuss proposals for a transition of power and hoped Russia would press it to do so.
"What we have seen so far is that the regime is not serious," opposition delegate Anas al-Abdah said. "The sooner the Russians can put enough pressure on the Syrian regime side, the better. And they are positioned to do that." - Reuters