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Third round of Geneva talks urgently needed: U.N. chief

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon listens to a speech during the opening of a high-level segment of the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)

GENEVA: U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon stressed Monday the urgency of relaunching the Syrian peace process, urging Damascus in particular to return to Geneva with a more “constructive position.”

“The only way to end the crisis is through a negotiated solution,” the secretary-general told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council, adding: “We are determined to bring the parties back to the table here in Geneva.”

The U.N.-led Geneva II peace talks broke down on Feb. 15 when a second round of talks ended with no new date set for them to reconvene.

Ban said he had a long talk Sunday with Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been mediating the talks on behalf of the U.N. and the Arab League.

The two had concluded that “it is important that the third round of the Geneva conference should be held again as soon as possible,” he said, pointing out that next week would mark three years since the start of the Syrian crisis.

“How long should this situation continue this way?” he asked of the conflict that has killed more than 140,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

He stressed though that there was first an “urgent need for the parties, and those with influence over them, to reflect on how the talks can achieve the progress the Syrian people and the region so urgently need.”

The Geneva II talks broke down with the regime insisting on giving priority to “terrorism” that it blames on the opposition, which in turn wanted to concentrate on putting in place a transitional government without President Bashar Assad.

The regime delegation balked at Brahimi’s proposal that the parties alternate between the subjects, insisting nothing else could be discussed until the “terrorism” issue had been completely resolved.

“Particularly the Syrian ... government delegation has not been constructively engaging in dialogue,” Ban said, stressing the responsibility of Damascus’ key ally Russia and the United States, which backs the opposition, to push the process forward.

“There must be ... a much stronger political will by the world leaders, particularly leaders who are directly concerned and also those leaders who have influence over the parties in conflict, to resolve all these issues through dialogue,” he said.

Ban, who met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and the Syria conflict, urged any “powers who have influence on the government as well as the opposition forces to exert their influences.”

“All parties [should] come to Geneva as soon as possible with a sincere and constructive position,” he said.

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdolahian to discuss “ways to settle the Syrian crisis,” the ITAR-Tass agency said.

“Special attention was paid to the situation in Syria within the joint efforts aimed at continuing the inter-Syrian talks in Geneva in order to find mutually advantageous resolutions on the basis of the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, referring to the divisive document that stipulates the formation of a transitional authority.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 04, 2014, on page 8.

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