BEIRUT

Middle East

Syria foes say will not quit talks despite impasse

Members of the Syrian opposition delegation Rima Fleihan (L) and Suheir Attasi (C) arrive for their first meeting face to face with Syrian government delegation and U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (not pictured) at a U.N. office in Geneva January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

GENEVA: Syria's rival sides said Monday that they would not quit peace talks despite being deadlocked after a session aimed at tackling the explosive issue of a transfer of power.

Pressed on whether the government delegation would walk out, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad responded: "Never! We shall not leave the table. We shall continue discussing."

Speaking separately, opposition delegate Rima Fleihan said: "We are positive and we're going to stay here until the goal of this conference has been achieved, the formation of a transition governing body."

The impasse emerged after negotiators from President Bashar al-Assad's regime set out a statement of five principles aimed at protecting Syria's sovereignty, preserving state institutions, halting "foreign diktat" and condemning "terrorist" groups -- a label slapped by the government on opposition fighters.

"What we did today was present a paper on basic elements for a political communique that will make the way smoother for the actual discussion when we come to the hard issues," said Muqdad.

"In this paper we have five points, and we have never thought that Syrians would disagree on these five points," he added, underlining that the goal was to "make the atmosphere conducive for advancement".

The UN-brokered talks are meant to build on the so-called "Geneva I" declaration agreed by an international conference in the Swiss city in 2012, and meant to pave the way for a mutually agreed political transition in war-torn Syria.

But Fleihan said the regime had "tried from the outset to take the negotiating process in another direction".

"It appears that the regime delegation is being smothered by the pressure from the international community, and that's why they are nervous," she added.

 

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Summary

Syria's rival sides said Monday that they would not quit peace talks despite being deadlocked after a session aimed at tackling the explosive issue of a transfer of power.

The impasse emerged after negotiators from President Bashar al-Assad's regime set out a statement of five principles aimed at protecting Syria's sovereignty, preserving state institutions, halting "foreign diktat" and condemning "terrorist" groups -- a label slapped by the government on opposition fighters.

The UN-brokered talks are meant to build on the so-called "Geneva I" declaration agreed by an international conference in the Swiss city in 2012, and meant to pave the way for a mutually agreed political transition in war-torn Syria.


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