No Progress at Syria Talks
by VOA News February 12, 2014
Talks in Geneva between Syria's government and opposition continue, despite no sign of progress.
On Wednesday the warring sides held face-to-face meetings for the second consecutive day, as international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi prepared to consult with diplomats from the United States and Russia — the two nations that helped organize the peace talks.
The opposition called Wednesday for creation of a transitional governing body that would oversee a ceasefire under U.N. monitoring. The plan was presented to Brahimi along with Syrian government negotiators.
Opposition spokesman Louay Safi said there was no immediate Syrian government response to the proposal.
Damascus has repeatedly said negotiations must focus first on fighting terrorism, and not creation of a transitional government.
Originally scheduled for Friday, Brahimi's talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman have been moved up to Thursday.
Earlier Wednesday, Russian media quoted Gatilov saying Russia will not support a draft U.N. Security Council resolution on humanitarian aid, saying it is 'unacceptable' and crafted as a precursor for military intervention.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a joint news conference Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande that aside from Russia, there is 'great unanimity' among the council on the resolution to give greater access to aid workers.
'Secretary Kerry and others have delivered a very direct message to the Russians that they cannot say that they are concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people when there are starving civilians, and that it is not just the Syrians that are responsible; the Russians, as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution,' Obama said.
The draft measure threatens sanctions against those who obstruct aid deliveries.
Obama said at this point he does not think there is a military solution to the Syrian crisis, but that the situation continues to change and he will explore 'every possible avenue.'
Russia is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, which each hold veto power. Russia and China have vetoed three previous resolutions that would have pressure President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Also Tuesday, U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper described the situation in Syria as an 'apocalyptic disaster' that has killed more than 134,000 people and created nearly 10 million refugees.
Clapper told a U.S. Senate committee that U.S. intelligence expectations from the Syrian peace talks are 'pretty modest.
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