Geneva talks on Syria end in failure once again

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar al Jaafari addresses the media outside of the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

The sixth round of Geneva talks ended with little if any progress on Friday as the warring sides dodged discussing the four main agenda items – reformed governance, new elections, a new constitution and the fight against terrorism.

The four days of talks ended with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura saying there had been “incremental progress” and that negotiations would reconvene in June.

“Any momentum provides some type of hope that we are not just waiting for the golden day but we are actually working for it,” de Mistura told a news conference in Geneva.

Meanwhile Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari complained to reporters that agenda items had not been discussed and suggested that the United States had tried undermine his negotiating position by claiming that a crematorium had been a the Sednaya prison to dispose of detainees’ remains, Reuters reported.

Ja’afari called the accusation “a big lie” and “a Hollywood show” and said the timing was “no coincidence”.

The Syrian opposition reiterated its demand for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power during talks; a demand the Syrian government refuses to discuss.

Another concern for the opposition is the presence of Iranian militias supporting the government. Opposition delegation leader Nasr al-Hariri said it was not possible to reach a political solution or to fight terrorism as long the militias remained in the country.

The aim of the UN talks is to prepare the way for political reform in Syria with the Astana talks taking the lead in discussions on ending the war.

Some commentators have criticised the exclusion of the Kurdish-led opposition – due to Turkish pressure – saying comprehensive talks cannot be held without all the major actors involved in the conflict.

The Kurdish-led autonomous administration controls almost one third of the country in the north of Syria, and backed by the US-led coalition, is spearheading the fight against Islamic State (IS).