Date
18 January 2017
UN mediator Staffan de Mistura holds talks with a delegation comprising Syrian opposition groups and government representatives during peace talks in Geneva on March 17. Photo: Reuters
UN mediator Staffan de Mistura holds talks with a delegation comprising Syrian opposition groups and government representatives during peace talks in Geneva on March 17. Photo: Reuters

Syria peace talks move toward Assad question

Syrian government negotiators at Geneva peace talks are coming under pressure to discuss the future of President Bashar al-Assad, something that the diplomats are keen to avoid, Reuters reported.

UN mediator Staffan de Mistura has described the political transition question as “the mother of all issues” in relation to Syria, and refused to drop the subject, the report said.

After a week of talks in Geneva, he praised the opposition for the depth of their ideas, but criticized the veteran diplomats on the government side for getting bogged down.

“The government is currently focusing very much on principles, which are necessary in any type of common ground on the transition,” he said.

“But I hope next week, and I have been saying so to them, that we will get their opinion, their details on how they see the political transition taking place,” de Mistura was quoted as saying.

Arguments over Assad’s fate were a major cause of the failure of previous UN peace efforts in 2012 and 2014 to end a civil war that has now lasted five years.

The main opposition, along with the US and other Western nations, has long insisted any peace deal must include Assad’s departure from power, while the Syrian government and Russia have said there is no such clause in the international agreements that underwrite the peace process.

The Syrian president looked more secure than ever at the start of the latest round of talks, riding high after a Russian-backed military campaign.

But Russia’s surprise withdrawal of most of its forces during the week signaled that Moscow expected its Syrian allies to take the Geneva talks seriously, the report noted.

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