Syrian delegations cite "progress" in Geneva as transitional government topic is broached

Published January 29th, 2014 - 04:40 GMT

Negotiators from both the Syrian government and the opposition said Wednesday that peace talks held in Geneva had taken a step forward after four days of deadlock.

Opposition representatives said that for the first time, they had discussed the establishment of the a transitional government with officials from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The Syrian government’s delegation also said that “positive” talks had started on the Geneva I communique - the statement put out by global powers during talks in the Swiss city in 2012 - while stressing that the focus was on ending violence and “stopping terrorism.”

“Today we had a positive step forward because for the first time now we are talking about the transitional governing body, to end dictatorship and end the fighting and the misery in Syria,” opposition delegation spokesman Louay Safi told reporters.

Hoping for progress

He added that he hoped for “more progress in the coming days.”

“We have not really discussed details, but the general framework for the discussions about the transitional governing body,” he said, adding that among the topics would be the size, responsibilities and timeframe of a transitional body.

Syrian government delegation member Buthaina Shaaban confirmed that talks on the Geneva communique had begun, but said “the first item is to stop violence which now has turned into terrorism.”

Accusations

Pointing to extremist Islamist groups among rebel forces, the regime has accused the opposition and its foreign supporters of backing “terrorism” in the mold of Al Qaeda.

“The talks have been positive today actually, because they spoke about terrorism, they spoke about Geneva I,” Shaaban said.

“The only difference between us and them, which is a major difference, is we want to discuss Geneva I item by item starting from the first item.... They want to jump to the item that speaks about the transitional government, and they're only interested in being in government, while what we are interested in is to stop this horrid war.”

Safi and Shaaban spoke after a meeting between government and opposition delegates with the U.N. and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

Stalled deal

A deal to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged central city of Homs remain stalled, with the Syrian delegation demanding assurances that U.S. aid will not go to “armed and terrorist groups” in the central city.

The negotiations aimed at ending Syria's three-year-old conflict began last week in Geneva.

The talks were cut short on Tuesday over the U.S. decision to restart deliveries of non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, more than a month after Al Qaeda-linked militants seized warehouses and prompted a sudden cutoff of Western supplies to the rebels.

The officials said that communications equipment and other items are being funneled only to non-armed opposition groups, but the move boosts Syria's beleaguered rebels, who have seen their international support waver, in part due to extremists among their ranks.


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