Syrian Sides to Meet in the Same Room
Syria's warring sides have agreed to meet together on Saturday after a first day of peace talks in Geneva stumbled with President Bashar Al-Assad's regime threatening to walk away, AFP reports.
After meeting with delegations from the regime and opposition, UN-Arab League Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said they had agreed to "meet in the same room" after failing to do so on the first day of planned negotiations.
Pulled together by the United Nations, Russia and the United States, the delegations had been due to sit down early Friday at UN headquarters in Geneva for their first face-to-face talks.
Plans for the meeting fell apart after the opposition insisted the regime must be prepared to discuss Assad leaving power.
"We knew that it was going to be difficult, complicated," Brahimi said. "We never expected this to be easy -- I think the two parties understand what is at stake."
Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem had earlier warned Brahimi that the Syrian delegation "will leave Geneva" should "serious sessions" fail to take place on Saturday.
“The Syrian delegation is serious and ready to start, but the other side is not," Syrian state television reported quoted him as having said.
Still, Brahimi appeared confident no one would be immediately quitting the talks.
"Both parties are going to be here tomorrow and they will be meeting. Nobody will be leaving on Saturday and nobody will be leaving on Sunday," he said, according to AFP.
Brahimi said discussions so far had been "encouraging" but that talks on concrete issues had not yet begun.
"We have not discussed the core matters yet. We hope that both parties will give concessions that will be to the benefit of the process," he said.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad told reporters the opposition was the obstacle to talks.
"The problem is that these people do not want to make peace, they are coming here with pre-conditions," he was quoted by AFP as having told reporters.
"Of course we are ready to sit in the same room. Why are we coming here then?" he added.
Nazir al-Hakim, a member of the opposition delegation, told AFP it was only willing to negotiate on the basis of the agreement reached at the "Geneva I" peace conference in 2012, which called for the creation of a transitional government.
"We agree to negotiate on the application of Geneva I. The regime does not accept that," he said, adding, "We will be in the same room when there is a clear agenda for negotiations. We need guarantees that Geneva I will be discussed."
Expectations are very low for a breakthrough at the Geneva II discussions, which officials have said could last up to 10 days.
The first day of the talks was characterized by bitter accusations, at the opposition and the United States said that Assad had no legitimacy and must step down from power, while Syria's foreign minister exchanged words with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the length of his speech.
Muallem said earlier this week as he arrived for the conference that Assad’s future was a “red line” for the delegation.
Not only has Assad refused to relinquish power, Muqdad recently said that Assad would likely run for another term as president this year.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)