U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said today (Wednesday) that the first phase of the Syrian peace talks in Geneva are still scheduled to end on Friday, but that the gap between the government and the opposition remains "quite large." Speaking to reporters, Brahimi said he does not expect any substantial achievements over the next two days. Brahimi added that the "ice is breaking slowly,” and that both sides will decide on Friday when the second phase of the talks will begin. Earlier Wednesday, both sides managed to discuss the thorniest issue: the opposition's demand for a transitional government in Syria.
But President Bashar Assad's adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, said in an interview with the Associated Press that it would be difficult to even hold a presidential election in Syria, given the present violence of the civil war, and rejected the idea of a transitional governing body. Shaaban said the opposition seemed more willing Wednesday to talk about terrorism, and she described the day's talks as constructive.
"The problem is that they're only interested in transitional government. They're only interested in government, not interested in putting an end to this war," she said, adding nonetheless that the talks ended "on a more positive note."
Shaaban hinted for the first time that a presidential election scheduled to be held this summer may not take place. She reiterated what Assad has said: that should there be an election, he sees no reason why he should not run again.