Political talks in Geneva ended on Friday with no significant advance, but UN envoy Staffan de Mistura maintained that they showed movement “in the right direction”.
The Assad regime and Syria’s opposition-rebel bloc held indirect talks for more than a week, with De Mistura presenting a working paper on procedure for future negotiations.
The opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee said “political transition” was considered, despite President Assad’s resistance, and the regime said combatting “terrorism” — its phrase for all armed opposition — had been added to the agenda.
De Mistura confirmed on Friday that counter-terrorism had been added as a “fourth basket” to the talks, alongside establishing a “credible, inclusive government”, drafting a new constitution and holding free and fair elections.
“What I saw…gives me some feeling that we are moving in the right direction,” de Mistura said. He expressed hope for another round of indirect negotiations later this month.
“I believe…and expect that the sides should now pursue a framework agreement containing an agreed political package so that a negotiated transitional political process can be implemented as indicated by [UN Security Council] Resolution 2254,” de Mistura said.
Assad’s chief negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari left the talks without speaking to reporters.
In contrast, Nasr al-Hariri of the opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee, said:
Although we are closing this round without clear results…I can say this time was more positive.
It was the first time we discussed in acceptable depth the future of Syria and the future of political transition in Syria.
The HNC also saw an opening in its talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov on Wednesday, although Moscow limited this the next day by accusing the opposition of trying to sabotage the talks by not conferring with two Russian-preferred smaller factions, known as the Moscow and Cairo Groups.
A Western diplomat said:
Russia is trying to do that to destabilize the talks. They insist on the opposition becoming one. This is a tactic to weaken the process. I hope that Staffan can push back on it.
TOP PHOTO: UN envoy Staffan de Mistura with the High Negotiations Committee’s Nasr al-Hariri and other delegates, March 2, 2017 (Philippe Desmazes/Reuters)