Russia must press the Syrian regime on peace talks: US

Last Updated: Saturday, February 15, 2014 - 02:09

Geneva: Russia must push Damascus to seriously engage in peace talks in Geneva, a US official said today as a second negotiation round appeared to be fizzling out with no sign of progress.

"We think that Russia has a responsibility to press the Syrian regime to approach these talks with seriousness," the senior US official said on condition of anonymity.

The so-called Geneva II process was initiated by the United States, which backs the Syrian opposition coalition, and Moscow, which supports the government in Damascus.

While a first round of talks in January was seen as a relative success for getting the parties to meet face-to-face for the first time in nearly three years of civil war, the foes this week have not even been able to agree on an agenda for the talks.

The US official blamed the impasse squarely on the regime delegation, which has refused to discuss anything beyond the "terrorism" it blames on its opponents and their foreign backers.

It did not react to a proposal put forward on Wednesday by the opposition delegation for a political transition in Syria, and has so far balked at UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi`s suggestion that the parties discuss the two issues in parallel.

"The United States would like there to be more progress, for the regime to come to the negotiating table with more seriousness of purpose," the US official said.

While the opposition had "put several constructive proposals on the table," the official said the regime "has been stonewalling every step of the way."

As one of the initiators of the talks, "Russia took on the responsibility of encouraging the regime to do what is necessary here," the official said.

"We hope and trust ... That Russia will urge the regime to engage in a serious and constructive way," the official added.

Asked whether there was an indication that Moscow was trying to get the regime delegation in Geneva to toe the line, the official pointed out that "the regime hasn`t done so yet, and that speaks for itself."

It was unclear today if the second round of talks was officially over or might timidly continue into Saturday, or whether the parties would agree to come back for a third round of negotiations.

While Washington remained committed to the Geneva II process, the US official stressed that "talks for show make no sense."

Brahimi himself vowed yesterday to keep trying, but added if there was no possibility to move forward he would "say so".

AFP

First Published: Saturday, February 15, 2014 - 02:09

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