BEIRUT

Middle East

Opposition: Syria talks at 'impasse' but not over

  • United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, left, and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, right, arrive for a trilateral meeting with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov during the second round of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Valentin Flauraud,Pool)

GENEVA: The United States and Russia blamed each other Friday for the failure of Syrian peace talks to take off, while an opposition spokesman said negotiations have reached a "dead end" but may continue for at least another day.

A second round of peace talks in Geneva has yielded little more than acrimony. Violence has escalated on the ground and delegates have not agreed on an agenda for the talks.

Louay Safi, a spokesman for the Syrian opposition delegation, told reporters that "the negotiations are not moving toward a political solution," accusing the government side of "belligerence." He urged all parties, particularly the Russians who are the Assad government's biggest ally, to exert pressure on the government to break the deadlock.

There has been no response, Safi said, to the proposal his side submitted Wednesday for ending the civil war, but the two sides might meet again Saturday.

"Unfortunately we have reached a dead end," Safi said, adding that he hoped international powers would exert enough pressure to change that.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of using Syrian the talks for the sole purpose of "regime change," while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Moscow was backtracking on earlier commitments.

"The only thing they want to talk about is the establishment of a transitional governing body," Lavrov said.

"Only after that are they ready to discuss the urgent and most pressing problems, like terrorism," he added, speaking after meeting with the German foreign minister in Moscow.

The Syrian government delegation says halting "terrorism" should be the priority, and rules out talks on transition while the violence rages.

Kerry said in Beijing that agreeing on a transition government was the sole purpose of the talks in Geneva. He said Lavrov had stood up beside him several times when Kerry has said that was the purpose.

"There is no question about what this is about and any efforts to try to be revisionist or walk back or step away from that frankly is not keeping work or keeping faith with the words that have been spoken and the intent of this conference," Kerry said.

The talks aim to end the conflict which has killed more than 130,000 people and displaced millions in three years.

Lavrov said the Russian-American initiative for the talks in Geneva clearly stated that discussions must not have artificial time constraints or deadlines.

"Now they are saying that to keep talking is senseless, because the government (of Syria) doesn't want to agree about the makeup of a transitional governing body. We are going in circles," Lavrov said.

 
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Summary

The United States and Russia blamed each other Friday for the failure of Syrian peace talks to take off, while an opposition spokesman said negotiations have reached a "dead end" but may continue for at least another day.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of using Syrian the talks for the sole purpose of "regime change," while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Moscow was backtracking on earlier commitments.

Kerry said in Beijing that agreeing on a transition government was the sole purpose of the talks in Geneva.

The talks aim to end the conflict which has killed more than 130,000 people and displaced millions in three years.


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