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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria Talks Plunge Into Disarray on 2nd Day

by Luis Ramirez February 02, 2016

Fragile indirect negotiations to end Syria's nearly five-year-old conflict slipped into disarray again on their second day Tuesday, with neither side holding formal sessions with the U.N. envoy in Geneva.

The government delegation said it had not opened formal negotiations as scheduled Tuesday with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, saying the basic framework or agenda of the talks had yet to be established and the process had not yet moved beyond the preparatory phase.

"We are waiting to find out the procedural issues, who will negotiate. Until now nothing is clear: one or two or three or four delegations? There is no clear answers," Bashar Jaafari, the chief Syrian government representative told reporters in Geneva.

At the same time, the main opposition group cancelled a meeting that it had scheduled with de Mistura on Tuesday.

De Mistura declared the talks officially under way late Monday, after convincing the opposition to join the talks. "As far as we are concerned, their arrival to the Palais des Nations and initiating the discussion with us is the official beginning of the Geneva talks," the UN envoy said.

The formal start came exactly one week after they were originally scheduled to begin.

Talks were delayed by discussions of who should represent the opposition, then by an opposition boycott and the opposition's demands for an end to air strikes and a lifting of blockades on rebel-held areas.

De Mistura offered those assurances. On Monday, he said discussions to pause the assault are part of a framework that was decided during multinational discussions held in Vienna last year that paved the way for the talks. "There was a message in the Vienna meetings that when the Geneva talks will actually start, in parallel there should be a beginning of a serious discussion about ceasefire," de Mistura said.

'Good faith' urged

The head of the Syrian government delegation this week called on the opposition to "show good faith and devote to serious discussions." '

But both sides accused each other of lacking good will.

Prospects for a ceasefire seemed especially uncertain Tuesday after the Syrian government, with Russia's assistance, launched a massive offensive against rebel forces this week.

Syrian state media say government forces on Tuesday took the village of Hardatneen, north of Aleppo, Syria's second largest city.

Observers say forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have recaptured several other villages near Aleppo over the last day.

The opposition is threatening to walk out of the Geneva talks if the air strikes do not stop and the government does not lift the siege they say is preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in rebel-held areas.


Mohamed Alloush, an opposition negotiator, on Tuesday accused the government of acting in bad faith. "Nothing has changed in the situation on the ground so as long as the situation is like this we are not optimistic," he said to reporters.

The regime's and Russia's actions gravely threaten the political process at this early stage," another opposition member, Farah Atassi, said.

Washington has called for all sides to approach negotiations with no preconditions.

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