War of words concludes Syria peace talks

War of words concludes Syria peace talks
3 min read
01 April, 2017
Syria is still in deadlock as rival parties traded insults following a fifth round of talks, with the UN envoy saying a real peace initiative is yet to begin.
Syrian peace talks have ended in a war of words, while negotiations ended in deadlock.

The Syrian regime and opposition negotiating teams did not sit together during the talks, but even this distance didn't prevent both sides trading insults and hopes of a breakthrough faded.

Syrian opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri blamed the Bashar al-Assad's "terrorist regime" for the impasse following days of talks.

He said that the regime refused to discuss a political transition which would see Assad step-down - a key demand of the opposition - and Damascus' negotiators instead used the conference as a platform to condemn rebel fighters as "terrorists".

"They are solely discussing their empty rhetoric about countering terrorism," Hariri said, according to Reuters.

"War crimes and crimes against humanity must not be an option for negotiations. From now, venues must be found for transitional justice to ensure holding the perpetrators accountable."

He said that there would be "no peace without justice" and key to reconciliation is Assad stepping down from power.

Damascus' chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari meanwhile mocked the opposition team, saying they were naive to believe the regime would hand over power and dismissed them as "adolescents".

Jaafari also repeated regime accusations of the pro-rebel opposition camp being "unpatriotic", allied to "foreign powers" and "terrorists".

Despite the sour mood, there were some hopeful signs that an agreement could eventually be reached, according to the UN's Syria envoy who headed the talks.

Although warning that the "real peace talks" were yet to begin both sides still stuck to the timetable and agreed to meet again, Staffan de Mistura concluded.

"There are real challenges on the ground, we are seeing them in front of our eyes. But let's be frank, no one walked out in spite of them," he added.

Both sides were "keen and ready to return to Geneva" - the Swiss city where the negotiations were held - for a sixth round of talks.

A date for the next round of talks will be released next week, de Mistura said, after he consults his UN colleagues.

Despite battles continuing in eastern Damascus and central Syria, the country has been relatively more peaceful since a nationwide ceasefire was announced late last year.

Air strikes by regime, Russian and US jets have continued and civilians continue to suffer immensely.

Yet, there are hopes there could be an end to the six-year war but the outcome for Syria, on the current path, could mean future outbreaks of violence, analysts have warned, particularly if Assad remains in charge.

The US has broke with its previous policy on insisting that the Syrian dictator must step down.

Washington said this week the depature of Assad is not a priority for the administration but Washington was looking at ways of getting Assad's key-backer Iran out of the equation in Syria.